Match#21: Mumbai Indians v/s Pune Warriors
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Form Guide: MI- Win, Win, Loss, PW- Win, Win, Loss,
This could be the beginning of a derby battle that may arouse Maharastrian sentiments and passions for years to come. That one may not be able to distinguish one team’s fans from the other (likewise for the stadiums) is only a minor setback for the neutral viewer on the perennial lookout for mouth-watering rivalries and neighbour-taunting rights.
That both the teams have shown considerable form until simultaneously being upset (and stunned) by lesser teams after scoring a total in excess of 180 with their captains (and World Cup soulmates) rising to the occasion only for their bowling to wilt under pressure- is merely a delicious coincidence that only adds to the zing of this pumped-up encounter that has been labelled the ‘mother of all derbies’ without the teams in question having actually played a game against eachother.
That both teams look equally unbeatable on paper until their bowlers ingeniously invent a previously-untested solution for them to lose a game and making it look like a case of rash negligence- has not mounted into problems of epic proportions for either team just yet.
With their respective strengths and weaknesses effectively mirroring eachother, one is tempted to say that they might just cancel eachother out and, for fear of further (bowling) exposure, sit on the pitch and share notes on their current foray into extensive research on the Maharashtrian culture and cuisine. Needless to say, Jesse Ryder and Robin Uthappa seem to be doing rather well at that. They tend to be heavily involved in most things they do. Of course, lessons are being learnt from Yuvraj Singh’s prior findings on Indian cuisine over an extended period of time.
Rohit Sharma is said to have taken keen interest too.
Mumbai Indians: (Finalists 2010)
One is not entirely sure Sachin Tendulkar likes the concept of batting averages in the IPL. Early indications arrive from the fact that he has duly eliminated the column from his ticker this year.
‘Still planning to stand up to me, Davy?’
A T20 century was all that was missing from his CV (which looks more like a paperback now) and hence, combining with the fast-rising-and-rising Ambati Rayadu- made sure that even this milestone of his was christened with the satisfaction of having scored it in a losing cause. That his bowlers made sure of that- especially Pollard who seemed intent on driving home the point- only demonstrates the respect his players have for age-old Indian cricketing traditions.
Malinga and Munaf still make for a chalk-and-cheese T20 bowling combination- and more often than not, it works. One contains, the other destroys- in no particular order. Pollard was finally given an opportunity to come to the crease with his bat. He played an important role in running the single that helped Sachin score his first T20 century. The players in the ‘did not bat’ category in the MI’s last 3 scorecards make for better reading than the entire Daredevil squad and their family lineages.
But their strength might soon become their weakness- simply because Tendulkar must find a way to utilize all the precious resources and riches that he has on hand. One way would be to bat lesser himself- but one doesn’t see that happening in the near future. Davy Jacobs has warmed up to that strategy instead. Rayadu seems to be playing ‘follow the leader’- in a charming manner nonetheless.
It all looks good for now- until Rohit Sharma discovers that he seems to be putting on more weight playing for the Mumbai Indians than not playing for the Indian national team.
Player to watch out for: Kieron Pollard
The monster is yet to score a run (not entirely his fault) and has a strike rate of zero. He will look to make amends once he is promoted up the order- or in the event of a massive batting collapse- both high probabilities once Sachin decides to finally leave the crease.
With Graeme Smith at the top of the order hell-bent on proving that his 5 years as one of the premier second-innings batsmen in the world, was merely a purple patch not unlike the one being experienced by a certain Ravidra Jadeja right now- the Warriors seem to have nullified his best efforts with the in-form master of cuisine (and beverage) tasters Jesse Ryder going great guns!
‘Sachin paaji, remember what this means?’
They have also discovered (the hard way) that percentage bowling in T20 cricket is not quite as effective as percentage batting- as their game against the Daredevils duly showed, allowing the script that requires every team having gone through 3 rounds having won atleast one game, to be carried forward.
Yuvi’s one-man show (or three-man if you count Ryder) was not dissimilar to his performances for the Indian team during the World Cup- the only difference being that he did not have the calming presence of a Munaf or Harbhajan to back him up while defending the score. Instead, he had Wayne Parnell. A South African. Under pressure. Crunch situation. Enough said.
He will look to remind Sachin of his romantic endeavour of having won the world cup for that ‘special someone’- and hope for some kind of reward for the subtle un-North-Indian gesture.
Player to watch out for: Rahul Sharma
The Jaladhar-based leg spinner will fancy his chances of being called ‘the first bowler EVER to dismiss Sachin in IPL 2011’. Getting Rayadu to not display considerable footwork might be an achievement too. Also, he will hope to have finished his spell before Rohit Sharma or Andrew Symonds display their keen fondness for opposition spinners.
With such an evenly-matched encounter, it is tempting to do a Warne and predict a TIE (and then spend the rest of our lives defending allegations of match-fixing) Hence, diplomacy shall reign- and a Mumbai win is more probable at this point of time. (Having said that, a BowlOut would be a great way to kickstart this soon-to-be-famous rivalry!)