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Match#59: Mumbai Indians v/s Deccan Chargers
 
Wankhede stadium, Mumbai
 
Form: MI- Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, 
            DC- Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, 
 
The Indians are fast resembling a speeding train that refuses to go too far ahead for an inherent fear of getting completely derailed. Yes, they are learning to peak (in a negative way) before the finals this time- and are doing a mighty good job at fooling Chennai right now. With a winning streak that has never extended to more than 3 inspite of 8 victories in 11 games, they are pacing themselves expertly much like Deccan and their rare wins insterspersed with a huge dollop of home losses. 
Which brings us to the match at hand: 
 
Mumbai Indians: (Finals 2010)
After quite a toothless effort against a rejuvinated Punjab outfit, Mumbai Indians will plan to snap out of their self-inflicted reverie that normally does not last more than 40 overs. With only 4 batsmen reaching double-figures, one understands that even top teams have their bad days- but being bowled out for less than 100 twice in IPL-2011 (incidentally the ONLY team to hold this honour) will set a few alarm bells ringing in the team management. Something does go wrong if the top 3 refuse to come to the party, and there is not even a slight hint of a fightback after that. 

Munaf Symonds
Mistaken Identities

As predicted, inspite of being at the top of the table- Sachin Tendulkar will not be completely secure with his team’s performance so far. They have never been at their best- and have profited by facing the weaker teams more than once. Come playoff time, a customary batting collapse may see MI be brackated into the Choking class of World Cricket- joining South Africa and the Indian team of the 90s. Rohit Sharma has calmed down after an initial outburst this year, so much so that Rayadu and Badrinath might make the squad to the carribbean and yet again confirm his current status as a wasted talent. He has atleast 5 games to turn things around- and a miracle may only be around the corner. Till then, we shall wait- as we have done so for 3 long years. 
 
Symonds is fast turning into the black sheep of this Indian family- and he looks to have taken lessons from Greg Chappell in subtle sabotage while making sure that he contributes a bare minimum to MI’s victories and contributes in excess to their rare (but embarrassing) losses.
 
Having said that, Tendulkar is finding it tough to fill the fifth bowlers slot with both Sharma and Symonds making sure that they concede not less than 12 an over- which duly undoes the hard work by a meanier-and-smilier Munaf Patel and a consistently menacing Malinga. Harbhajan Singh, meanwhile, has resumed his wicketless ways with great pride and showmanship. 
 
Facing bottom-of-the-table Chargers at home may just be the boost that Mumbai need right now- but Deccan are far more dangerous playing away from their stepmother-like home stadium, and Sachin Tendulkar will definitely need to end his battle with the law-of-averages concept and, for a change, adhere to it without kicking up a big fuss. (read cross the 30s and self-destruct after that)
 
Player to watch out for: Munaf Patel
The line-and-length specialist is back in the limelight with a stunningly accurate 5-wicket performance against Punjab. That they still lost miserably will probably make him feel like the bowler-version of SRT, and he will understand that Malinga and Harbhajan definitely need to ‘support’ him more often. But the Ramji-loving simpleton will continue to fool batsmen with his ridiculous ways in the field and consistently droopy body language. Be warned- for his entire life seems to be building up to a crescendo and every other thing he does is all part of the ‘ACT’, an illusion that magicials use to divert their audience. 
 
Deccan Chargers: (Winners 2009)
After generously filling in the position that colleagues Pune have duly vacated (with considerable ease), the Chargers will be looking for that proverbial spark that may lift them out of a massive fog of Kenyan depression. Steyn and Ishant will be wondering what more they could possibly do to atleast inspire Sangakkara and his fellow batters to make a fist out of some games. (other than taking a few more wickets themselves)
 
Life looks dull for the Deccan fans right now- with literally nothing to play for except an ounce of pride that they may have duly lost on Tuesday against Pune. With Ravi Teja and Dhawan actually providing explosive starts to the team, the absence of Kumara’s expert shepherding abilities in the middle-overs renders the team as clueless as a South-African in a knockout stage game. With Sanga’s mind already visibily focused on the England tour ahead, the team will need to look towards a new leader (with non-playing vice-captain Cameron White on the bench). Steyn or Duminy look primed to take over, but it will not make much of a difference to a side that can go nowhere but up. Hence, there will be a mad scramble of sorts to take over this win-win captaincy job. So what if they are South Africans? Smith, who?
 
Sunny Sohal must be missing his beloved opening slot- but it is a lot more soothing to not watch an inspired suicide bomber open an innings which is in some desperate need of stability.  Of course, it is not a coincidence that Sohal might find himself at the top of the second consecutive batting line-up (after Punjab last year) that could finish at a position half the league is not familiar with. Deccan will do well to remember that Ojha and Mishra are the only consistent performers in this format- and with their quick ‘bowling’ hot and cold, Daniel Christian will try his best to disprove the theory that he is the ‘naughty and mischevious boy’ that figured in the hell-hath-no-fury-cheerleader dame’s mysterious IPL blog. But then, Andrew Symonds seems to have a lot of time and money on his hands lately- what with his bumbling ways on the field for MI. Just saying…

stylistically defeated
Stylistically defeated

Player to watch out for: Pragyan Ojha
 
After being in and out of the team more than Pakistan’s next banned player, Ojha will want to seal his place with a frustrated 5-for that may actually win Deccan a game or two. The fight is well and truly on- for this loyal Charger who has seen his team through considerable lows and a solitary high, and the management might want to repay him with preferance over the fast-fading Amit Mishra (who seems to be deflated with yet another mediocre team to contend with- his own)
Prediction:
 
Mumbai cannot possibly prove their lack of batting firepower (yes, its true) for two games in a row. Hence, expect a typical mechanical MI win that may not set any pulses racing or hearts booming. Of course, it does depend on Sachin winning the toss and batting first- for chasing anything more than 150 could be totally out of reach for this top-heavy batting order that is fast hoping for Sachin to stop getting bored.  Duminy will want to reach out to his ex-team with a typically generous performance under pressure- that may yet again seal his place in the MI history books as one of their most valuable players. 

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