The Indian Premier League has always been more than cricket. But thanks to last week’s events, you may have started wondering whether it’s everything else but cricket.
In such a scenario, a cracker of a game can only stress that cricket remains the crux of the multi-million dollar league. And, we couldn’t have asked for a better stage for one such affair — the first semifinal to be played between the Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the DY Patil Stadium on Wednesday.
After the kind of start they had to their campaign in IPL-III, it wasn’t surprising to see MI and RCB making it to the last four. What was startling, though, was to see the two squaring off in the penultimate round itself rather than in the grand finale. These two teams have emerged as the prime contenders for the title.
While the Mumbai Indians maintained their terrific start to finish at the top of the league table, the RCB stuttered in the latter half to be in danger of missing the cut at one stage. However, with a net run-rate better than most contenders, Anil Kumble’s men eventually scraped through to the semis with a fourth-place finish.
An inconsistent bunch, the RCB would have cherished home support in a big match like Wednesday’s. However, they will be deprived of it as both the semifinals, originally scheduled in Bangalore, were moved out after the twin blasts outside the stadium on April 17.
The RCB, who still haven’t figured out who their best-four overseas recruits are, wouldn’t have minded playing at a neutral venue. But their woes have been compounded with the shifting of matches to Navi Mumbai, where hardly anyone among the 55,000-odd spectators is expected to cheer the men in red and golden yellow.
The Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, opted to rest their key players in Monday’s inconsequential tie against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
While Lasith Malinga has had a long layoff, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Kieron Pollard were rested. With the team backing Tendulkar’s dazzling form to the hilt, the Mumbai Indians, no doubt, look favourites against the RCB. But, one cannot ignore the fact that the only team that has beaten MI on their home turf in this edition is RCB.
But that was more than a month ago. Can Kumble and Co. recreate that magic of March 20? Wait and watch.