Match#13: Mumbai Indians v/s Kochi Tuskers Kerala
Stadium of Light, Mumbai
Form Guide: MI- Win, Win, KTK- Loss, Loss,
12 days ago, a little-known stadium in the middle of nowhere (not even close to prime property) in a remote town of a tiny country with an extremely sparse population ERUPTED in joy. Their team had just won the World Championship in a sport invented by the British.
So when Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi trudged off the court after thanking the small contingent of Indian Tennis fans at Indian Wells (no connection) in California, they could not help but wonder why a lone Bihari fan in a blue cricket jersey (what?) asked them when they were going to shave their heads off. After all, they had reached the top of their sport. Again.
Of course, back home at a modern coliseum called Wankhede in Mumbai, there was a small matter of the Indian Cricket Team doing pretty well to pack off Sri Lanka in the final of the Asia, er, World Cup. Not bad for an underachieving team who refused to achieve anything unless they played a fairytale final in front of their best batsman’s home crowd. They only had to wait 22 years for that, but never mind.
There were a few hiccups, though. Sreesanth was heckled at for no fault of his (apart from bowling poorly), and Sachin Tendulkar was given the biggest cheer of the night (and year, and decade) when he walked out to wield some heavy willow.
Nothing has changed 12 days on- not one bit- for Sreesanth will still be heckled at (not for an entirely different reason) and Sachin will…well, of course.
After all this is Wankhede- the Lords of Indian Cricket.
On second thought, taking into consideration the ‘thrilling performance’ (for the optimistically inclined British fans) of their own team, they might start wanting to consider the possibility of naming Lords the ‘Wankhede of England’ instead.
Mumbai Indians: (Finalists- 2010)
So when Sachin Tendulkar walks onto his home ground for the first time in his life as a World Champion, expect the crowd to calm down after around 3.5 seconds of moderate cheers. But do not expect another ‘Do it for Sachin’ slogan to continue, especially in Mumbai, for the next 45 days. After all, unlike their national team, Mumbai Indians start as favourites and end as the ‘best team that never wins’. They may want to ask Jonty Rhodes and Shaun Pollock how that feels.
After two inspiring performances by 3 of their top-order batsmen (also the only players who have batted), the team looks extremely comfortable with the knowledge that one of them does not like the concept of batting averages showing up on the screen, and the other one does not like bowlers in general. (Who’s who?)
But recently, when they woke up to the news of Lasith Malinga having to go home before the knockout stages begin, it will be interesting to see how they cope with the situation immediately- especially against lesser teams (cannot be named for risk of further embarrassment or even execution).
That is not to say that the other players are not good enough, but we simply don’t know, do we? Pollard hasn’t even got a bat, neither has Rohit Sharma (technically). But I’m not sure the management would mind it much if this carries on till the final, and this time, hopefully past it too.
‘Sachin Ko Challenge Kiya?’
Player to watch out for: Davy Jacobs. Looked lethal in the last game, especially against a jaded Zaheer Khan. The South African stumper looks good to go, allowing Sachin to take over the role of anchor once again.
The daring Ambati Rayadu, without his ex-partner-in-crime Saurabh Tiwary, is looking much more relaxed and fearless. He adds depth to an already very-deep line-up that may start rotating their players soon just so that everyone gets a chance! (not unlike gully cricket matches where everyone wants ‘betting’)
Kochi Tuskers Kerala:
The Kochi Tuskers Kerala (love saying it) will be remotely aware of a minor wave of mild disbelief if they manage to upset the champions (on paper) in their own den- a full possibility considering the fact that an equally dismal Punjab (only on paper) managed to upset the champions (for real) Chennai- a result that simultaneously almost ended my blogging career for the nostradamical prediction made, along with the lives of a few dozen South-Indian punters discussing future profits over a plate of Medu Wadas and an alcoholic beverage (or three). That the Mumbai Indians managed to dislocate Bangalore’s bowling radar with the precision of a German Surgeon joining gastric systems of 3 different species of animals- is only a minor matter for the supremely under-confident debut outfit.
Never mind the confidence-sapping come-from-behind loss against a tougher Pune Warriors or the gutsy give-up-when-defend loss (equally shattering) against the Royal Challengers. Never mind their renowned Sri-Lankan ex-captain consistently making ingenious bowling changes that seem intent on ending a new bowler’s career every game. He failed to do so with Murali (where he succeeded with Gomez) simply because Murali’s career is already over. Also, Never mind Ravindra Jadeja looking like the best player of the team.
Player to watch out for: Parthiv Patel. The baby-faced Gujarati boy seems to be a specialist in gorgeous cameos that, in quantity, refuse to continue beyond his real age. Since the same problem persists with Shahid Afridi, his batsmanship has duly deserted him and refuses to compete with his ageless body. But, we digress.
The Patel boy (second in line to Munaf now) looks in great touch, and is destined to finally cement himself as the second best wicketkeeper-batsman in the country (yes, that is a position)
S. Sreesanth looks to be improving- from an economy rate of 8 an over to 7 an over. All that he needs now is a wicket or two- which will still be a wicket or two more than the total number of wickets he managed during the whole World Cup.
Prediction: Mumbai win. A risky proposition, this prediction part- but a choice must always be made. After all, it can always be backed up with a ‘Did YOU even know of that Paul guy?’ retort if faced with continuous ridicule for fearlessly arrogant predictions.