Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
May 15th, 2013
Form Guide (Last 5 Matches)
Mumbai – L W W W W
RR – L W W W W
The form guide is a fair reflection of how these two teams have run each other neck to neck in this tournament. As the old cricketing cliché goes, there really isnt much to choose between these two sides who have already ensured themselves a qualification spot on the back of playing "bully’ to their opponents whilst in their own den. Mumbai Indians look a supremely confident team specially while playing at the Wankhede and this was reflected when their sleeping giant this season, Kieron Pollard finally came to the party in their last match and launched a blitzkrieg that pummelled the Sunrisers into submission. Mumbai shall be riding high on completing an implausible win in their last match and would look to continue their momentum in their last home game so as to ensure that their home fans who have come in droves this season board the last few locals from Churchgate with a smile on their face.
Rajasthan Royals shall be looking to breach the Wankhede fortress having valiantly protected their very own at Jaipur. The Royals have played with a great degree of fortitude in their home games and this fact is clealy reflected in their enviable home record which would rank amongst the very best throughout all seasons. The team has also been extremely lucky to have in the words of Ian Chappell " the best captain Australia never had "Shane Warne at the helm who as a captain and mentor led them to glory in the first season of the league. Since then, the Royals had shown a tendency in previous seasons to slip up at the business end of the season, but Rahul Dravid (a man who is a study in contrast in many ways when compared to Warne) has instilled self belief and resoluteness in his team to transform them from a team of "also rans" to a team that looks closest to repeat their feat of the First season.
Mumbai shall be aware that after CSK’s victory against DD yesterday, a win would almost ensure them a spot in the top two regardless of all other results. Since the format allows the top two teams at the end of the league stages a second bite of the cherry in the event of a loss and a direct qualification for the final if they beat the other top ranked side, Mumbai would know that a lot hinges on the result of this match for them. MI play their last league game against Punjab at Dharamshala, a venue that is plagued by inclement weather this week and therefore would not like to risk their top spot in the rankings in case their last league game is abandoned. The team has received a huge boost on account of the fact that their batsmen have performed well in critical situations albeit in turns but there always has been someone who has put their hands up for the team in trying times. Pollard’s magic against SRH in their last outing would serve as a grim reminder to Rajasthan that no total would be safe on the Wankhede track when the MI batting line up starts firing on all cylinders. Mumbai’s bowlers have also played no small part in their rise to the top, and they have held their nerve while defending even modest totals as was evident when they defended a paltry score against the Mighty CSK. Rohit has led the team from the front by consistently putting in strong individual performances whilst the middle order has rallied around him. With Sachin in doubt for the match due to injury, it shall be interesting to see whether or not, Rohit falls back on Ponting or picks a greenhorn to partner Smith at the top of the order. All in all MI look a cohesive unit and have proved that they have it in them to go all the way and looking ahead, it would be no surprise even if they clinch the title this season.
X Factor: Mitchell Johnson
Johnson would be itching to get his mojo back after a forgettable outing in the last match. The Aussie seamer has bowled with a lot of heart on Indian tracks and with the Royals batting order being full of right handers, his in swinger could prove to be a lethal weapon specially against the likes of Watson and Rahane who have shown a tendency to chop the ball on to their stumps.
If one were to check the thesaurus to try and look up the phrase " Sincerity of Purpose" the name of Rahul Sharad Dravid would most certainly find a mention. In order to ensure that he was match fit both physically and mentally for the league, Dravid started putting in the hard yards almost 3 months prior to the start of the tournament and also willingly gave up his contract to commentate for the India Australia test series. After announcing retirement from the game, Dravid has also looked rejuvenated and relaxed on the field and this attitude has also rubbed off onto his team. His own personal form has been amongst the best when compared with the plus 35 age lot playing this tournament and the Royals need to look no further for any inspiration but to their leader. The likes of Sanju Samson and Stuart Binny have revelled whilst playing under him and have on more than one occasion ensured that their team crossed the finish line in pressure situations. The marked difference that is seen in this team is the fact that they have invariably ended up winning the tight matches backed up by brilliant individual performances with bat and ball by their talisman Shane Watson. Royals will also be aware that their away form has been patchy this season and since their net run rate is marginally lower than the Mumbai Indians, a win for them would be crucial to guarantee them a top two finish.
X Factor: Sanju Samson
This pocket dynamite has played a brand of fearless cricket that the Royals fans have got used to seeing from the team this season. The brashness and impetuousness of youth that comes to be associated with 18 year olds has yet not in any way afflicted Sanju who has warmed the heart of Indian fans by his performances under presessure. He is surely a future team India prospect if nurtured well and given the right oppurtunities at the right time. After two rare blemishes, Samson would love to spoil the party for the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede and play a vital hand in breaching the Wankhede fortress.
Prediction: This is a really tough one to call. Mumbai would be looking to extract revenge after an embarassing defeat to RR in Jaipur but Rajasthan shall certainly prove to be no pushovers and shall match them inch by inch. However, Mumbai have a slender advantage purely because they play at home and Rajasthan lack a quality spinner in the middle overs to stem the flow of runs in the event of a middle order blitz from MI whereas the Mumbai bowling has that extra variation which could work to their advantage.