JOHANNESBURG: All eyes will be on Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Harbhajan Singh as defending champions Mumbai Indians take on local team Lions in their opening Champions League Twenty20 match on Sunday.
Tendulkar, whose last competitive game was a Test match between India and New Zealand in Bangalore earlier last month, will be keen on doing well as his performance will certainly have a bearing on Mumbai Indians' fortune in the tournament.
For the 39-year-old champion batsman, it will also be a chance to prove his detractors wrong after he was bowled thrice during the Test series against New Zealand while Harbhajan will like to use this opportunity to get requisite confidence and make a case for himself before the Test team selection.
Although Tendulkar's next international assignment is against England starting next month, a good performance against a local side on bouncy South African strip will give him a lot of confidence than what a Ranji Trophy game on a shirtfront can provide.
Along with a destructive opener in Richard Levi, the duo has the ability to destroy the Lions' attack that will be led by two left-arm bowlers of different nature. While Pakistan's Sohail Tanveer can trouble the batsman with clever variations, speed merchant Dirk Nannes can be a handful on lively tracks.
Harbhajan, who won man-of-the-match award against England in the recently concluded World T20 would like to show that the performance wasn't a mere flash in the pan.
The tournament will also be a test for Rohit Sharma who has consistently failed to deliver for India despite having the backing of his national team skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
West Indian Dwayne Smith who didn't feature in West Indies' playing XI during the latter half of World T20 can also be considered for his all-round abilities.
Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik are two players who are expected to lend solidity to the middle-order while Kieron Pollard with his big-hitting prowess, steady seam-up stuff and electric fielding will be a crowd puller.
Last but not the least is Lasith Malinga who has been instrumental in many Mumbai wins over the past few years with his ability to stop the batsmen during death overs.
The Lankan slinger will like to forget the World T20 final where he was hammered for five sixes by Marlon Samuels and produce another deadly performance for his side.
It will be interesting to note whether MI team management decides on playing Australian left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson who has recently made a comeback to competitive cricket.
The Lions squad comprises mainly of South Africa's national team discards or fringe players but knowing the conditions better than their rivals will certainly be an advantage for them. The likes of Gulam Bodi, Zander de Bruyn, Alviro Peterson have played a lot of domestic T20 matches and can pose serious challenge to the defending champions.
Mumbai Indians: Harbhajan Singh (Capt.), Sachin Tendulkar, Richard Levi, Dwayne Smith, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Thisara Perera, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dhwal Kulkarni, Suryakumar Yadav.
Lions: Temba Bavuma, Gulam Bodi, Alviro Peterson, Zander de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Neil McKenzie, Pumelela Matshikwe, Chris Morris, Dirk Nannes, Ethan O'Reilly, Aaron Phangiso, Dwaine Pretorius, Sohail Tanveer, Jean Symes, Thami Tsolekile.