Mumbai Indians v/s Royal Challengers Bangalore
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Head-to-Head record: Mumbai 5-4 Bangalore
Super Sub Agent Smith
On Sunday, Mumbai and Bangalore made sure that even the most cynical of cricket followers stopped smirking for a bit and took notice of the stunning games at hand. Sunday will probably go down as the most memorable day in IPL history- with two of the best possible back-to-back finishes scorching through the summer heat. With IPL-V already set to break every possible record as far as close ‘down-to-the-wire’ games go, the weekend was just another defining chapter in T20 cricket.
First, it was Mumbai- who were cruising to an easy double over Chennai at one stage with Sachin and Rohit at the crease- until they decided to make things interesting with an unwarranted collapse towards the final over. It seemed like all was lost, and Chennai were once again peaking at the right time in the season- until an insane last minute import called Dwayne Smith (in place of Johnson) more than made up for the lack of West Indian blood in the line-up. 14 of 3 Hilfenhaus balls made for the best last-over finish in IPL 2012 (which seems to change every week), and Smith was an instant hero in the land of Vada-Pav and brown beaches. Just when one thought that this high couldn’t possibly be eclipsed, Bangalore decided to do a Chennai (that Albie had done on Bangalore) onto Deccan- who, not for the first time, lost the plot in the last four overs. Again, it was that man AB, who played the most delightful cameo at the end- an innings (against Steyn and co.) that will be remembered as much as the Steyn spell against Mumbai- for its sheer brilliance and dominance.
And just like that, Bangalore were back in the mid-table scrap for that fourth position- with Mumbai pretty much sealing their spot, thanks to some not-so-consistent cricket by Rajasthan and Punjab lately.
When this game took place in the first edition of the IPL at Brabourne in Mumbai, it was a match-up between a hopeless test team with young 19-year old Kohli and a madly deviant Mumbai team who looked way too top heavy. Both of them were no-hopers trying to find their ground in an alien format.
Things have changed. Not for the first time, the war is on between them- for that all important playoff spot.
Back to the top
It was bound to happen. Sachin Tendulkar, who hadn’t played one meaningful innings this season, had to come to the fore sooner or later. That it happened in a chase against IPL Champions, will only further his reputation as a pressure player- a veteran with mastery over any format of the game. That his disciple Rohit Sharma (who, ironically, almost had his career threatened by Tendulkar’s inability to be dismissed before the 14th over last season) accompanied him to a wondrous century partnership that had Dhoni slouching his shoulders- is a bonus that Mumbai are willing to accept.
For the first time this season, atleast two of their top 4 batsmen are in form, and are seeing the ball well enough to execute a chase- and this could be called ‘good timing’ as far as their peak is concerned, which is something that Chennai have mastered. To undo the Champions twice in a season deserves applause, and Mumbai Indians will not be known as weak-team bullies anymore (a double over Deccan), especially not when they take on fellow heavyweights Bangalore in a crucial clash that could make or break the red team’s hopes of making it to the last four. With Malinga doing what he does best, and RP Singh briefly displaying glimpses of why he is at the international level- Mumbai might be slightly concerned about their wafer-thin middle order that looks quite directionless without Pollard and Symonds. Their gamble with Smith paid off handsomely, an all-rounders are the way to go for a team that relies heavily on bits and pieces.
Player to watch out for: Rohit Sharma
A confidence player that thrives in close chases, Sharma will be disappointed with his inability to close out games like Chennai- though he has improved leaps and bounds from the mad dash player he used to be for Deccan. He was young and fearless, and no doubt, gained more success as that player- but it is time for him to buckle down and read the game of cricket like a book- instead of impatiently turning the pages to reach the end. He is hitting the ball well, and looks determined and pained enough to convert his hunger into results for an underachieving Mumbai team.
Surge of Red
Royal Challengers Bangalore:
Virat Kohli has been so woefully out of form for the Challengers, that Daniel Vettori has had to drop himself to accommodate a better bowler- Murali, a move that should have been executed long back. With Murali conceding less than 4 runs an over once again, Deccan had to go for broke against the others, which was a good sign for Bangalore- despite conceding 180. Dilshan seems to have found his ground, and will do well to be kept off bowling for a while- and young Captain Kohli will have to think around his bowling changes a bit, because AB De Villiers will soon run out of patience especially after being sent at number 6 after the likes of Asad Pathan.
Gayle does not look his usual self, and with Dilshan being a bit inconsistent- Kohli will have to find some sort of form to shore the middle order into action because, clearly, Bangalore are not the best bowling side in the tournament. This match against Mumbai could possibly end all hopes for them, but could also serve as a warning bell to the other top teams- because this could be the game where the Royal Challengers could rise up to their task and begin a streak that rivalled last year’s consistency.
Player to watch out for: Virat Kohli
A world class player is defined by his ability to knock the ball around when out of form, not by his scoring ability during a purple patch. Kohli, who looks pretty frustrated with his bat, hands, pads, hair, the opposition bowler’s hair, the umpires, the supermoon (that distracted him) and the wicketkeeper’s whispers- whenever he is dismissed- needs to focus on his own flaws and find a way around him. Not too long back, he was the best batsman in 50 overs cricket, but in a matter of 10 IPL games, teammate AB De Villiers is now the undisputed king of batting in all forms of cricket. Can’t be a bad thing for the Red Devils, unless they decide to fold up and choke once again.
This could be the beginning of a streak, and a team like Bangalore with so many class players cannot possibly bow out of the race so early, Gayle or no Gayle. Expect some desperate, brutal yet beautiful cricket from both sides, but Bangalore will want it more. And they will come out, the better team.