May 1st, 2013
Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad
Only a few days ago, these two teams were in contrasting situations. The Sunrisers were defying all odds with a bits-and-pieces team, without Shikhar Dhawan even, and had won 5 of their 7 games. Top of the table- an unusual spot for a Hyderabad-based team in T20 league. Mumbai Indians, meanwhile, were freewheeling towards the bottom of the table. A campaign that had started promisingly with an away win at Chennai, was in danger of derailment- with Ricky Ponting clueless about his team’s fortunes. 3 wins in 6 games meant that a loss at Eden Gardens could very well mean curtains for a low-on-confidence team.
Things changed in less than a week. Dhawan, Sunrisers’ best batsman, was brought in- and shockingly, they lost two games in a row, despite his efforts against Chennai. Mumbai Indians took the drastic but required step of dropping their own captain Ponting, and thrust more responsibility onto the enigmatic Rohit Sharma. A change of leadership, a change of thinking. Sunrisers are now below MI in the points table, still on 5 wins of 9 games.MI have won 3 games in a row, on 6 wins of 9 games.
It is difficult to point out what is going wrong with the team after such a promising first half of T20 competition.. The only explanation being that they exceeded their own expectations after a dud of the previous tournament, and scrapped to narrow wins in 2013, with most teams rusty while getting back into the groove. They remain the only team in the top 6 with a negative NRR, which proves this theory. The overperformers relied a lot on their bowlers- Mishra, Steyn and the impressive Karan Sharma- to reign in most teams, and now they’re back to their Deccan ways. A turnaround is needed, and fast- because with CSK, RR and MI in the form they are- Hyderabad will be battling with RCB for that fourth spot in the playoffs.
X-factor: Karan Sharma. The young Indian leggie, the discovery of the latest format of cricket as far as Indian players are concerned- has been conceding less than 4 runs an over for two consecutive games. He controls the middle overs, before his more illustrious counterparts like Steyn and Ishant leak runs at the end.
Rohit Sharma has infused life into a struggling top order- after Dinesh Karthik has eased off on the pedal for a bit. Dwayne Smith and Sachin Tendulkar take turns at the top, before Rohit takes on the role normally played by Pollard in the middle order. His leadership has been fresh, to say the least, with fielding standards improving immediately- who can forget the gravity defying crucial catch by Pollard at long on against the unfortunate Kings XI Punjab? MI, still, have a worrying tendency of not closing out games- with Kulkarni almost giving away the match on a platter on Monday- a game they had no business of taking to the last ball.
With 3 wins on the bounce, their streak is only second to CSK’s 4 wins in a row- with the two giants dominating the game as usual, leaving the likes of RCB and KKR gasping for balance and air.
X-factor: Sachin Tendulkar. The customary quick half-century is still pending, with Tendulkar always looking good before getting out against the run of play each game. He needs to build on his starts, and his best innings so far- 23 off 14 balls against RCB- could have been stretched into the 40s before Pollard rescued the team lower down the order.
Prediction: Mumbai have a 100% home record this season, but are most likely to win at Hyderabad out of all grounds in an away game. Rohit played his first 3 T20 seasons here, and his team looks destined to snatch second place after this game.