Match# 44: Pune Warriors India v/s Mumbai Indians 

Dr. DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai
Form Guide: PWI- Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss,
                        MI- Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win,
From the high of the World Cup Win to the unavoidable and inevitable lows of the IPL- it has been an interesting journey for Yuvraj Singh. The poor kid (who has been transformed into a ‘man’) needs a break, and his clueless face while rotating his bowlers faster than the time it takes for Robbie’s brain to reject a sensible signal- is only proof that the IPL was never going to be top-priority for the stars of the Indian team.
Dhoni and Tendulkar consistently prove otherwise, but deep inside, even they are aware of their dwindling powers and complete lack of energy.
Time for the Derby to hit home with yet another inconsequential game for both of them (for directly opposite reasons). Mumbai were the ones who had begun their neighbour’s never-ending downfall with a snatch-carrot-from-grasp win at the Wankhede two weeks back- and as much as the Warriors would like to exact revenge on their generous counterparts, their loss of all ability under intense pressure and consistent breakdowns might haunt them forever and a day. 
Can PWI go on and add themselves into the record books- as the sole team to have lost 7 IPL games in a row? Momentous occasion, indeed. 
Pune Warriors India:
6 losses on the trot- and just like that, the Warriors have retreated back to their broken castle (coincidentally Mumbai’s 3rd choice stadium). That this will be only their 4th home game- will be a bit of a relief to Yuvi and co. Not that it matters much after a record streak that has seen them exit the tournament in blazing style.
Mathematically, they still stand a chance of making the knockouts- but mathematically, even South Africa stands a chance in every major tournament Semi-final. D&L is supposed to be a mathematical equation too. 
After letting the Royals back into the game at Jaipur, inspite of an Afridiesque bowling performance by the growing-and-growing Rahul Sharma- Pune managed to seal their status as the almost-team in this league.
‘Not another Sharma…’
Once again Uthappa played a mind-numbingly ridiculous shot to none other than Shane Warne after being set (on 33- surprised?), and the team management should consider dropping him just to teach him a lesson. But who else will score those 33 runs every game? They need every resource available- even if is often accompanied by bouts of moronic brainfreeze.
The lesser-known players like Jermaine Taylor and Thomas must carry more responsibility on their bowling shoulders- and make sure that not more than 2 of their next 6 games slip away from their hands. Massive ask, of course. 
Otherwise, once again, the ‘home’ crowd will wonder which time-zone they have been dropped into- and the choicest of Marathi cusswords may find their way across both sections (providing the fan knows which team he/she is supporting). The term ‘fence sitter’ might acquire a new meaning altogether. 
Player to watch out for: Rahul Sharma
Making his second appearance in this category is quite an achievement for the tall and wiry leg-spinner- also known as the first bowler to dismiss SRT in IPL 2011. He has gone from strength to strength (in direct contrast to his team)- and he will be made to look even better amongst the ruins of the Pune rubble. 
Mumbai Indians: (Finals 2010)
After yet another close win aided more by the electric world-cup-hungover Wankhede crowd than spectacular bowling (or batting, for that matter), Mumbai Indians will do well to not fall into the realms of complacency now that they have 12 points from 8 games- to take them top of the table. Again. 
With just two losses to their name (in direct contrast to PWI having two wins to their name), some will argue that MI have this format figured out and reaching the finals will be a mere formality. But closer observation will reveal that the Indians struggle considerably while setting a target- with no real number in mind, and attributing a low score to supposed demons in the pitch.
‘Do I still resemble S. Sreesanth, kid?’
That their pressure-aroused bowling line-up is saving their skin time and again- is a well-known fact, but it is easy to get carried away in the moment and forget about all that is weak when on a mechanical winning streak of sorts. One is still not convinced about Davy Jacobs role in the side (with Rayadu able to keep) and with Sachin Tendulkar’s apparent inability to push the scoring rate during the middle-overs.
That valuable resources like Sharma, Symonds and Pollard are being wasted more often than not- might not be much of a problem right now, but come Knockout day, there will be no excuses.
Having said that, the complicated knockout format that may give Mumbai more than one opportunity to reach the final- seems designed to ‘help’ the stronger teams of the league. Only fair, I guess.
But will there be two finals too, then?
Just in case, Sachin and Rayadu decide to bat out all of the overs on their own- fans will be thrilled but might fail to notice that the inevitable less-than-160 score will look much stronger than it actually is.
What is heartening to see is that Pollard finally seems to have decided to prove his prowess as a ‘freelance T20 cricketer’- coming good in an easy game against Kings XI with bat (by his standards) and ball. Just what he needed.

Player to watch out for: Munaf Patel
With Malinga consistently increasing the budget of standard cricket equipment by more than 50% a game by destroying atleast one stump and a guard (ouch), it is easy to overlook the role of the smiling-Ramji-inspired assassin Munaf Patel. That he wasn’t even the best Patel in his state two years ago (close contest with Parthiv) is well in the past now, and with a World Cup medal, the old youngster seems to be enjoying his spells for the Mumbai Indians. 
So much so that he has even started to field a bit more like bowlers and less like Kamran Akmal without gloves.
One cannot possibly keep hoping for a Pune-inflicted upset. Their periods of brilliance are normally restricted to a few lusty blows by their opener and keeper, and sustaining it over a massively long game of 40 overs is proving to be a major pain in the backside.
Hence, a MI win is a logical choice- that will almost seal their spot in the knockouts and encourage Sachin and Harbhajan to ‘rest’ themselves and provide an opportunity or two to the practice-starved youngsters.
Namely Sharma, Pollard, Symonds and the rest. Depends on greedy Rayadu though (who, admittedly, is doing a great job at number 3)

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