Match#34: Rajasthan Royals v/s Mumbai Indians
Sawai Man Singh stadium, Jaipur
Form Guide: RR- Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Draw, Loss, Win | MI- Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win
Finally, it is here. The game we all have been waiting for. Blue v/s Blue in the Pink City- keeping with the whole ‘Equal Rights’ argument- designed to attract both male and female fans (Shhhhh…..ane).
Two massive teams on the edge! Well, not exactly- but Rajasthan seem mighty close to a perilous situation that can lead to an unprecedented freefall in their fortunes. One loss more- and almost every game becomes a must-win, and they might turn into the Knight Riders of this year (read damp squids).
The Indians are cruising along at the top of the table- not dissimilar to 2010 where they reached the final having lost only 3 games. Complete fail. Hence- For one, they would love to lose a few more than that this year so that they are not massively upset in the final again (which in turn may have actually inspired Dhoni to win the World Cup) and avoid social service of that sort again.
What better game to start their ‘test freefall’ than against a team led by Shane Warne? Let him smell blood, let his team reach the knockouts and then…okay, maybe not. With half the Rajasthan team yet to discover any kind of form, it is better to kill them off now- before Miss Hurley learns a bit too much about cricket and discovers the joy of chanting ‘Sachin, Sachin!’ in an opposition stadium at the risk of being deported back to, er, Mumbai. Or before Shilpa Shetty returns back to her old cheering ways and, in turn, distracts most of the tall players of foreign origin from the opposition team. We would rather have the owner-in-disguise Raj Kundra pine for her on live television. Or maybe even Rahul Dravid run slower than he already does.
Whatever the situation, Sachin Tendulkar is due once again after a string of less-than-50 failures. Scoring 50-odd and handing over the reins to Rohit Sharma and Symonds once again may be a good idea- for it seems to be working more than Tendulkar himself batting through the innings without accelerating much in the end. With the team not having much to lose except a few points.
But the sight of Shane Warne can do funny things to people- especially Englishmen and South African batsmen (including the Mumbai Indians support staff). And the sight of Sachin Tendulkar can do funny things to Shane Warne. What’s that, Warnie? In your dreams, you say? Spot on, old chap!
Considering the fact that we (and the rest of the country) have already built it up to be another legendary clash between two ageless rival champions after a year- expect someone like Rohit Sharma, Pollard or even Ashok Menaria to shameless steal the limelight- crowd expectations be damned! After all, there is a match to win. Bah.
Rajasthan Royals: (Winners 2008)
After inflicting quite the Royal Thrashing on the Tuskers on Sunday, Rajasthan will look to rekindle their old romance with their home stadium once again and return back to their winning form that lasted precisely for their first two games. One is not sure they will savour the massive 4-day break (by their standards) between their games- with them finally gaining some kind of momentum- desperately needed to take into their important almost-do-or-die game against the table-toppers.
Standings rarely matter considering how this season has unfolded so far- but Mumbai are an orthodox and professional outfit who seem to have learnt more than enough from their follies over the first two seasons. Hence, difficult to beat- but not impossible. Shane Warne must use this game as an opportunity to fire off a warning to the other strong teams in the league- they are NOT finished yet. All he has to do is convince his bowling mates to let Sachin score a century again. Sorted.
Warne: ‘Yes, everyone can have her autograph! All of you!’
Of course- that the Royals promptly go on to surrender meekly to a weaker down-and-out team in record fashion following such an intense game, is another matter altogether. First, they must present themselves with an opportunity to self-destruct outrageously in the following matches- simply by beating the powerful Mumbai Indians. One step at a time.
Warne will instruct his young guns to ‘take it as it comes’- an advice he has successfully adhered to all his (social) life, as well as the time his mother sweetly offered him some anti-diuretic tablets to help him go pee-pee before an inconsequential ICC inter-country tournament.
The Royals finally seem to have got their team-balance right by (surprise surprise) bringing back Johan Botha into the side. He may not sound as dynamic and dangerous as Shaun Tait- but he chips away without seeming too important- and that is exactly what Rajasthan represents as a team in general. Having Dravid open the innings lends a soothing calm to the top of the order- otherwise occupied by aggressive suicidal six-happy paranoid batsmen. Also, in a twisted sort of a way, he brings out the best in Watson by forcing him to go for his famous slog-sweeps sooner than later- just by being Rahul Dravid. His reputation, as they say, often precedes him.
With Botha even adding to the wickets column for the first time with a bit of luck, Shane Warne will look forward to dazzling the strongest batting line-up in the IPL with his uniquely unusual tendency of constantly changing a winning combination.
Player to watch out for: Ross Taylor
The Boss has finally been promoted up the batting order- so what if it was for an extremely useless situation where the services of no more than a Rahane were required? The time has come for him to fire- and with his destructive twin Watson finally showing some kind of form (again, in useless situations), Rajasthan desperately need both of them to fire in one game in order to scare the living daylights out of every statistician and analyst that ever lived- simply because one is not sure of the number ‘300’ is even available as an electronic option for a scorecard in a T20 game.
Also, the mouth waters in sheer anticipation of watching Shane Warne bowl to Sachin once again. An around-the-leg faster dipper that turns more than anticipated and hits the top of off-stump would be great to watch- at the risk of being executed by patriotic Indian die-hard fans for even grinning at the sheer beauty of the delivery.
Mumbai Indians: (Finalists 2010)
Pollard is yet to score a run off the bat this year. And the team is still leading. Very comfortably. Just to drive home the point- let me act like a bit of a statistic-whore: They have won 5 out of their 6 games so far- which leaves them to win only around 40% of their next (and final) 8 games to be assured of a place in the knockouts. Whatever transpires during the knockouts this year by the time every team has played 14 games- might just be as inconsequential as Australia winning the world cup for the fourth time in a row.
But as we know, that did not happen. And hence, the knockouts will then proceed to be a mini-tournament in its own right. Expect players like Sachin Tendulkar and Sachin Tendulkar to ‘rest’ once they have secured a knockout spot- which looks very probable unless a disaster of South-African proportions occurs.
Symonds: ‘Knocking for the post-match beer’
After yet another easy win that was not always as dominant as it looked- with the rest of the MI players truly tested after a well-orchestrated top-order collapse (just what they needed), they now look like they are almost voluntarily creating tough situations for themselves in every game…just for the fun of it!
It is in no way their fault that the other teams are making them look like the Barcelona of the IPL- though it may have something to do with the fact that both, the orange cap and purple cap, currently reside on the heads of two dynamic players from this team. And one cannot help but feel that the caps are destined to remain there- one way or the other.
So what if Lasith Malinga refuses to decorate his sober hairstyle with something as wild as a (ugh) purple CAP?
In the meantime, Rohit Sharma and Andrew Symonds have been charged with abetment of an almost-mass-suicide-pact after they methodically destroyed the Deccan Chargers (and pretty much their whole campaign) on Sunday. The pact was said to have involved exclusively Hyderabadi citizens who were planning something on the lines of a ‘Biryani Tandoor’ at their ‘away’ stadium in the same city.
Player to watch out for: Lasith Malinga
An opposition like Rajasthan who have proved time and again their unique ability of collapsing under no pressure whatsoever- are prone to an under-pressure collapse against a supposedly-injured Malinga who seems to have a toe-fetish of sorts. Meanwhile, the company responsible for providing the stumps and bails for this year’s tournament have filed a joint-petition in court requesting withdrawal of the subject Lasith Malinga under the pretext of him having to return to Sri Lanka to pursue a degree in humanitarian science.
One does not see Rajasthan successfully overcoming a never-ending Mumbai batting line-up that will, in all probability, go through the whole tournament without actually having exposed the bottom 4 to the opposition bowlers.
When pushed to the wall though, we know what Shane Warne is capable of. Ask most of his lady friends. Oops. Low blow.
Go Warnie! (the best we can come up with considering the fact that no other bowler looks capable of even hitting the pads of Rohit Sharma right now)