Some time back, when asked if he was targeting any particular batsmen in the Champions League, Makhaya Ntini rattled out three names in a jiffy. “MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Matthew Hayden are on top of my list. I will show them what they are missing,” he said.
Well, he was indeed joking then, but the fiery South African fast bowler will go as hard as possible on them in what is a must-win contest between the Warriors and the Chennai Super Kings in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday. The quick bowler, who plays for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, spent most of his time warming the benches during the last season, and he would naturally be eager to prove a point or two to his franchise. And if he does manage to pull it off for the Warriors, it will be the end of the road for the IPL champions.
Other than Ntini and co, the loud and vociferous crowd at the St George’s Park will make life tough for the Super Kings.
The crowd backs their team to such an extent that it almost makes the other team feel they are up against a 12-member opposition. “The crowds are always quality. Whether it is the Champions League or the domestic circuit, the crowd always comes in to support us,” said Davey Jacobs, the Warriors skipper. No wonder, they have won all three matches without breaking a sweat at their home ground.
As for the Super Kings, it must have taken some effort to psyche up for this crucial contest after that draining Super Over defeat at the hands of Victoria Bushrangers the other day. R Ashwin, who bowled the super over, in particular looked inconsolable, and will need lots of mental strength to resume normal service for his team.
Fielding, like other IPL teams, is also an issue of concern for Super Kings. “We don’t really have a great fielding side. That has been a drawback in all three IPL seasons, but we have improved a bit,” Dhoni said after the defeat to the Bushrangers.
Aside that, the indifferent form of Matthew Hayden with the bat has also increased their problems; although the batting looks good even in his absence, the presence of an in-form Hayden can’t be stressed enough in a knock-out game like this.
Anyhow, it’s not for the first time that Dhoni will be leading his men into the battlefield with odds stacked against him.
He has sprung surprises many a time in the past, and there’s no reason to doubt his magical touch this time around too.