Match#27: Deccan Chargers v/s Mumbai Indians
Rajiv Gandhi International stadium, Hyderabad
Form Guide: DC- Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, MI- Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win,
With the Mumbai Indians playing for the third time in six days, Sachin Tendulkar and his merry troops must feel a lot like the travelling circus called the Rajasthan Royals- the only difference being that this sudden flurry of activity after a brief lull seems have to rejuvenated this team (read tiring Sachin out so that the others can play). On the road after three straight home games, the Indians cannot have chosen a better place to continue their inevitable winning streak that might just keep them on top of the table for the second year running.
Going to Hyderabad seems to be a soothing balm for most hurting teams- with the Chargers having won just ONE game out of ten at this famed venue. Hence, with the current table-toppers arriving to face the consistently inconsistent home team- Sangakkara and his homesick (for lack of a better word) troops will be hoping to choose this game as an opportunity to sound ominous warning bells for rest of the league- hopefully, in a positive manner. Losing one more game will only add to the current wave of misery that is blowing across the South faster than the pre-seasonal monsoon winds. With Chennai (still faking it), Bangalore (not for long) and Deccan (er…) forming a majority of the bottom half of the almost-midway table, the only consolation for these proud Southern teams is that the Daredevils seem intent (come what may) to make sure that the rest of the 11 teams fight it out amongst themselves- hoping to cause a few ‘upsets’ on the way. That we might have a fourth team carrying on the ‘Wooden Spoon’ tradition in the fourth year- is a refreshing change from the sheer predictability of the ICC T20 tournaments. Of course, having a 4th different winner too would help matters considerably- and as things stand, both these possibilities look very likely indeed. (Unless Dhoni gets greedy. Again.)
This game will be an interesting tussle between two teams that find themselves in contrasting situations. Deccan have a lot to lose and will have to play for their lives- atleast for the next 3 games- to feel even half as secure as Mumbai do right now.
It will also be a match-up between the strongest batting and bowling outfits in this year’s edition. Though, considering Mumbai’s last performance against Chennai- they are looking to settle the debate internally instead.
Deccan Chargers: (Winners 2009)
Falling behind during the group stages to make a final late surge when nobody is looking and expectations are nil- seems to be the mantra of this erratic outfit right from 2008. That it has worked for them once (and how!) in three years is proof of their ‘play dead’ strategy- that Chennai seem to be using for the second year running too. Taking the strong teams unaware in the knockout stages sounds well and good, but if this team fails to reach that stage altogether- it will be a colossal waste of an irresistible combination of two of India’s best spinners and the best fast bowler in the world.
‘I can’t believe it either!’
Unfortunately, their weak batting-lineup led by none other than Sangakkara himself seem to be hell-bent on proving that batting is the only skill that wins or loses games in the shortest form of cricket. With the out-of-favour Cameron White (currently going through an identity crisis) returning to the Deccan line-up from a career-ending tour of Bangladesh, Sanga must make a bold decision or two by sitting him out and instead promoting the talented Chipli and monstrous Christian up the pecking order. White, who is visibly trying to use the IPL as the stage to shoot back into the limelight, should be encouraged to contribute in more useful ways- like meditating with the Daredevil team members and finding the true meaning to his existence (and also how on earth he is the Australian T20 captain. Really)
Opportunities are a must- and the captain is visibly vilting under the pressures of carrying the responsibility of yet another underperforming squad on his broad and reliable shoulders.
Facing Lasith Malinga and co. is not exactly the ideal tonic required for an ailing batting line-up, but Sanga could be forgiven for frantically taking notes from his old pal Mahela after Kochi’s shockingly good performance against Mumbai- apart from masterminding a secret protest for the BCCI that brought the Sri-Lankan board to their knees. Shhh. Secret, I said.
Player to watch out for: Harmeet Singh
The unassuming Sardar from Rajasthan seems to have become a master of illusions greater than the Great Danton himself over the last 3 seasons with the Chargers. Slyly following a fiery opening spell from the faster bowlers in the world, batsmen tend to underestimate his limited bowling abilities and immediately attack him- more often than not failing miserably after a few lusty hits to the fence. Sangakkara seems to have picked up on this faster than most (it took Gilly one whole season to discover this)- and has now successfully incorporated his lethal slow-medium-slow into the team without anyone (especially the Delhi batsmen) taking notice.
Bharath Chipli, if he bats higher up, could just be the next Ambati Rayadu or Paul Valthaty with a little bit of luck (and plenty of opportunity). Daniel Christian is still the timebomb he was 4 games ago- still waiting to explode. Unless he wants to resemble many a failed suicide bomber in the middle-east, he must step up and breathe some oxygen into a directionless batting squad.
Mumbai Indians: (Finalists 2010)
Fresh from a world-famous-in-India fielding effort against the mighty SuperKings (not anymore, though) that won them a game they had no right to win in the first place, the Indians must be more thrilled with the considerable batting prowess shown by anyone who was not Sachin Tendulkar and Ambati Rayadu.
‘I’m on fire!’
When Rohit Sharma came in to bat in the 4th over (shock and awe!), for no fault of his- he was playing once again to save his career (read remind selectors of his existence on the batting horizon). That it was only his second opportunity to even hold the bat in the tournament seemed to have been lost on most of the fans. Taking the situation into consideration (with the Mumbai Indians going where no Indian had gone before in IPL 2011- losing 2 for less than 20), Rohit Sharma grasped this priceless opportunity with both his slim hands and played an unhurried innings of such effortless grace and class- that it seemed like a massive injustice to cricket in general to deny the world a glimpse of this supremely-talented youngster during the World Cup. Back then, he had nobody to blame but himself- and he still holds his fate in his own hands, not having proved himself enough in the 50 over game yet. He would do well, first, by maybe treating a one-day international as a slightly extended version of T20 cricket, and bless the watching world with an array of Mark Waughesque shots for longer periods of time. Even a cross-batted heave of Raina in the penultimate over looked anything but ugly and unbalanced. Facing the team that shot him to prominence in the first edition will have him on the edge though- unless Rayadu decides to bat through. Again.
Secure with the knowledge that there is life other than Sachin in this team, the fans will now look forward to maybe watching Pollard actually score a run soon. One by one, though, for this year’s wish list- Christmas (or Diwali) is still a long way away.
Harbhajan Singh, in the meanwhile, seems to have done what he couldn’t do in the entire world cup (and the previous 32 tournaments before that). He managed to take 5 wickets. In one innings. In 4 overs, no less. That it is an aberration of greater magnitude than Sachin getting out for a single digit score- is common knowledge- and us, as fans, have learnt to savour such moments when they come. They are rare.
He has always bowled smart- but to back them up with actual wickets- is quite an achievement. After all, how often can one use the ‘opposition tries to play out the best bowlers and not attack him’ explanation for his continued inability to make consistent breakthroughs. That Mumbai were defending a score and the Chennai batsmen had no choice but to attack (and duly panic) was only a coincidence. Just saying.
Player to watch out for: Andrew Symonds
Given an opportunity, Harbhajan Singh’s old mate, Symmo has proved that rustiness rarely seems to have a major effect on his already rusty-looking style of batting. Using the bat like more of a toothpick, this large-hearted and disciplined all-rounder (well-behaved Australian at that) is adding much-needed depth to a batting order than relied too much on Pollard last year. His fielding, of course, is a massive bonus- so much so that he seems to have inspired the similarly-built (vertically) Pollard to fly around and scare the living bijesus out of most opposition batsmen who believe in masked crusaders at night.
A Mumbai win- in most games they play now- will be a taken. On current form, they do not look like losing even the odd game- much like the Daredevils looking equally capable of not winning the odd (or even) game.
With the only game-changer in the Deccan team being Dale Steyn, Tendulkar will surely have a plan to counter that. Something original- like playing through the innings. Again.