If someone were to conduct a poll for the most under-performing side in the first two editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Mumbai Indians would beat the Kolkata Knight Riders by an overwhelming margin.
But one month into the third edition, the most high profile IPL franchise, owned by the richest Indian and led by the most iconic cricketer, has been able to turn the tide and become the only team yet to have assured itself a place in the knockout stage.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to play for in their last home game against the Delhi Daredevils on Tuesday. Sachin Tendulkar’s men would like to keep their consistent run going with another strong performance. No doubt, Tendulkar’s scintillating form with the willow has been a key factor in their success.
But Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh’s clever bowling has also provided the much-needed backup to Tendulkar’s heroics. And, as the tournament nears its business end, Zaheer Khan’s superlative effort against the Rajasthan Royals on Sunday night showed that the pace spearhead is indeed at his best.
That leaves MI slightly worried with just two spots in the eleven. The back-up seamer hasn’t yet delivered on a consistent basis, while Abhishek Nayar’s prolonged injury break hasn’t helped R. Sathish cement his place in the side.
While the Mumbai Indians will try and get their team combination perfect, the Delhi Daredevils just can’t afford to even think of experimenting. If they have to make their third successive IPL semis, they have to win at least two of their remaining three matches.
Naturally, Gautam Gambhir and Co would not like to give away two points on Tuesday and advance their knockout phase with two league ties remaining.
And, if their poor showing against the Kings XI Punjab on Sunday is taken as benchmark, it looks one hell of a task for the Daredevils to overcome MI’s resistance.
More than the skipper and David Warner, the Daredevils will be banking on Virender Sehwag who, not so long ago, had scored 293 at the same venue — the Brabourne Stadium — in a Test against Sri Lanka.
The Delhi dasher hasn’t had a match-winning knock for a while now. Like Tendulkar, Sehwag enjoys the home support everywhere he plays in India.
And, if he is able to divert his master’s supporters to his side on Tuesday afternoon, God help the Mumbai Indians.