Pune Warriors v/s Mumbai Indians
Sahara Stadium, Pune
Head to Head: Pune 1-2 Mumbai
It’s a bird, it’s a plane…It’s just Pup.
The Warriors, led by a Bengali King, had started their season in alarmingly good fashion- only to be slowed down by the law of averages and the inevitability of the lack of penetrative foreign blood in their ranks. They have lost games that they shouldn’t have lost (Bangalore), and are now languishing mid-table more than halfway through the league. Ganguly will need to rely heavily on the arrival of Michael Clarke, and figure out an effective manner to utilize him best. That could also mean dropping Samuels or Mathews, which must be done- given the fact that Pune will have to win atleast 4 more games to sneak through to the knockouts. The only thing working in their favour is the form of other teams- other than DD and KKR- where nobody seems to want the initiative.
Mumbai Indians is one of those teams. Buoyed by an unconvincing dreary victory over the weak Deccan Chargers (twice), the team is just about in the top half right now. Wins against the weaker teams, though, really haven’t told a story for this team- and they face an uphill task to qualify for the knockouts- with Sachin Tendulkar and Pollard woefully out of form, and Rohit Sharma consistently flattering to deceive. Harbhajan Singh tripled his entire season tally of wickets in this game, and Levi continued to let his new team down- though one can’t blame him for being at the receiving end of one of the greatest fast bowling spells in recent history by Dale Steyn.
Pune Warriors India:
Without Jesse Ryder and Robin Uthappa, the batting strength of this team matches that of the Chargers, and that isn’t saying much about Dada’s battalion of brave, young men. After assembling a team of bits and pieces, the long season seems to be taking a toll on their form- with players like Nehra and Rahul Sharma fading away into oblivion. Ganguly himself seems to be in better form, but he still isn’t doing enough to merit a place above Clarke in the batting order. The one lucky spell against Bangalore aside, Dada must rethink his own role in a team that needs to win or perish.
Hopping Tiger, Hidden Swing
The surprising factor about this side- in complete contrast to their neighbours Mumbai- is the fact that they have won all their games against impressive oppositions. Pune Warriors are the true giant killers. Wins against Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai may rings a few alarms, but they will need to do a lot more than proving to be flashes in the pan.
Player to watch out for: Michael Clarke
Pune’s new addition, along with Watson for Rajasthan, is an absolute Godsend for a team that must do everything right to march on to a historic final-4 place. Clarke, fresh from a gutsy series win against the Windies, will be a bit tired- not to mention the final selling of his soul after rants of how he won’t give in to the cashrich leagues all over the world in order to concentrate on Test Cricket. He is human, after all, and now that he is Dancing with the Devil, he might as well turn on the heat.
The most disappointing team of the year, Mumbai Indians have fallen prey to the favorites tag once again. Only this time, the team looks clueless midway through their campaign- unlike previous years where they have stuttered towards the end. Maybe they’re pacing themselves like Chennai and waiting for one final burst of glory, but that strategy seems highly unlikely considering the fact that they can’t even get their 4 foreign slots right in every game. With Malinga back, though, their bowlers seem to be back in action- though one can’t say the same about Tendulkar and his gang of underperforming Knights.
Player to watch out for: Sachin Tendulkar
Being quiet for an entire tournament seems to have become the norm lately for this Indian legend, and after two consecutive tours that have defied his legacy, Tendulkar will be looking to establish some kind of form running into a two year long Home Season. He hasn’t found a willing partner at the top of the order yet, but surely, that can’t stop a great batsman, can it?
Mirror Mirror On the Wall
Mumbai will hope to avoid the double desperately, but it is hard not to feel Pune’s desperation to win being far greater than their counterparts. A Pune Win- most likely here- will not qualify as an upset anymore and will bring their season back on track, atleast for the time being, and probably knock the wind out of the Mumbai sails. Watching Clarke play under Dada, though, is what I’m looking forward to.