Different Strokes

Match#54: Kings XI Punjab v/s Mumbai Indians

Punjab Cricket Association stadium, Chandigarh, Mohali

Form: KXIP- Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss,
            MI- Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win,

Mumbai will consider themselves lucky to be able to play teams like Punjab and Pune twice- all thanks to a generous schedule. By far the worst batting lineup (and most erratic) of this year with only ONE genuinely world class player (not Gilly, no), Kings XI will be licking their wounds and planning a pilgrimage to Amritsar- hoping desperately that the Indians start to ease off a bit, chill out maybe. (or in other words- Sachin plays through the innings)

Yes, Preity will host the Ambanis- and that sounds almost as ridiculous as the utter mismatch of the teams in question- atleast on current form. Mumbai have won 8 out of 10 games so far- and Punjab have lost 6 out of 9. Still not as bad as Warriors, but atleast they are being true to what they aspire to be.

Kings XI Punjab: (Semi finals 2008)

As mentioned earlier, the Kings XI are in line to create history with a double-double. Not only are they primed to be the only team in the history of the IPL to hold up the wooden spoon for two consecutive years, but they have a captain that is aspiring to do quite the same- except that his achievements will be nicely spaced and spoilt by the odd title in between. Gilly should be considering retirement before Warne- but wasn’t that the case for almost every Australian player when Warne retired from cricket in 2007? Another one bites the dust- and Shane Warne still seems to have the power to go out on a massive high (relatively speaking).

V for Vone match wonder?

Caught Gilchrist Bowled Warne indeed.

The Kings will once again turn to Shaun Marsh for any sort of respectability- and then turn to Gilchrist for a reality check once again. His bumbling ways with the bat haven’t helped things a lot- and one cannot help but feel if he is outstaying his welcome in this format- surviving only on past reputation. Surely, even Ganguly could have scored more runs at the top of the order- without captaining his team to loss after embarrassing loss too.

Anyhow, Valthaty is still trying to stake a claim to a position in Ranji cricket (also known as the division Dhoni is yet to conquer)- and other than Praveen Kumar, no other player seems very keen to be broadcasted in pink outfits.

After the initial stroke of genius that Gilchrist had brazenly displayed by showing his faith in an unknown Valthaty- there has really been nothing to write home about for this team. One more stroke of genius is in the making though- with Chawla being dropped just when he was starting to look dangerous (read concede less than 40 a game)

Player to watch out for: Shalabh Srivastava

The not-so-young ICL import (in the league of Rayadu, no less) showed signs of considerable talent and control when he took out Yuvi and Jhunjhunwala in one over at the fag end of the game. Okay, so Pune were just being Pune- but still, someone had to tip toe into the limelight- even if it was only for an over.

Mumbai Indians: (Finals 2010)

There was a Sunday, around 3 weeks back, when Mumbai were below Pune and Punjab at third spot in the standings. Forget the fact that every team had played just 3 games- it is of little relevance. So after a ‘comeback’ that has defied all odds, Mumbai Indians not only find themselves top of the table, but also in the unenviable position of being the first team to qualify for the knockouts. With 4 games in hand.

Unenviable- because….Now what?

Early birds often struggle to keep up the momentum and then go through a period where nothing in life really makes sense till the others catch up. The intensity is bound to reduce, just like it did during the final last year. Bad timing, of course- but the Indians will do well to learn from experience and go one better this year. Sometimes, it is better to huff and puff one’s way to the knockouts with some fairytale come-from-behind performances- and then ride the momentum to the trophy ceremony. Look at Chennai in 2010, and Deccan in 2009.

rohit sharma

Paunch No More

Mumbai Indians just need to emulate the Royals from 2008, and justify the ridiculously unfair IPL format that seems to have been made for underdog victories (plans to expand to the USA are carefully in order). The BCCI may have been looking to attract a larger audience- and were extremely disheartened by the emergence of Rajasthan as champions in the first edition. The best team in the league must NOT win the championship- period.

Of course, they duly forgot that Rajasthan were tagged as ‘no-hopers’ before the IPL began. Never mind.

Finally, MI seem to have gotten their team balance right- with Blizzard actually living up to his name and Sachin deciding to leave the charging to the young guns of Indian cricket. As predicted, Rayadu and Sharma took matters into their own hands and accelerated at will, effortlessly at most.

Players like Kallis and Dravid should follow suit and finally accept the fact that accumulating runs is good in any form, but in T20 cricket- surviving the first 7-8 overs is all that their role demands of them. Batting on further might be detrimental to the team cause- and this may be very hard to digest for die-hard Sachin fans. But deep inside, even they know that if MI are to win, Sachin is their anchor- and can afford to bat through ONLY if they are chasing moderate totals.

The others should be left to earn their salary in the meantime.

Facing a wounded and out-of-contention Punjab might tempt Tendulkar to make a few changes in the line-up, and take some well-earned rest himself.

For once, he is not wearing the Orange cap- but one suspects that it will be his by the end of this long-drawn tournament. In any case, with Malinga already having broken the record for maximum number of wickets in an IPL season (with atleast 6 games left for MI), one doubts if anyone cares about any cap anymore.

Experts should consider inventing a hairpiece for the bowler that manages to come within 10 wickets of the purple-capped ‘injured’ bowler.

Player to watch out for: Ambati Rayadu

The youngster (strictly age-wise) is primed to make his national debut with an amazingly consistent and aggressive IPL record this season. He must thank nobody but Sachin- for the little master seems to have given him the edge over Rohit Sharma by placing him at 3 for the entire season once again. Last year, the thunder was stolen by Saurabh Tiwary (who is now a victim of Daniel Vettori)- but Rayadu is making sure that he leaves a trail of gaping mouths and frustrated giants (Symonds and Pollard) in his wake. He is doing more than enough to make up for their mental absence.

Mumbai win. Nothing more. Nothing less. EVEN if Sachin decides to bat through. Yes.

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