As if it wasn’t odd enough to see both Stephen Fleming and Mutthiah Muralitharan in bright yellow jerseys, the colour of their Chennai IPL team’s jersey and also that of their most bitter on field rivals Australia, the Sri Lankan, on top of that, was wearing a No 7 jersey with Dhoni written on it.
With many rivals playing with each other and many teammates pitted against each other, Saturday’s match between the Punjab IPL team and the Chennai IPL team promises a rare prospect of Yuvraj plotting the downfall of MS Dhoni, Brett Lee having a go at Matthew Hayden, and Muralitharan trying to outsmart Mahela Jayawardene. “Look, its not about me against Dhoni,” Yuvraj, captain of the Punjab IPL team, said in Chandigarh on Thursday.
“We have got some good players and they have got some good players. We are going to be competing as two teams. Obviously, people are going to compare us but the team which plays better cricket will win.”
When asked what his strategy against Dhoni would be, Yuvraj said: “Well, I have Brett Lee here. I will ask him to bowl when Dhoni comes out to bat.”
On Friday, Muralitharan would bowl to Jayawardene, a rare sight, and what would the record-breaking tweaker do? “Try to get him out the first ball,” replied Muralitharan, flashing his trademark smile.
Punjab’s coach Tom Moody said, “From my experience as former coach of Sri Lanka, I have seen how Mahela and Kumar handled Murali in the nets, and it would be interesting to see how they tackle him here. “But I would like to see Mahela and Sangakkara belting the hell out of Muralitharan’s bowling..”
But Muraltiharan was not about to let this one go. “Maybe they are a bit jetlagged, so…I may have a upper hand here,” he said about his Lankan teammates who flew in to join the team here on Thursday.
Lee, in all possibility, would be bowling to Hayden. And when asked whether he would bowl as fast to his Australian mate as he would to Yuvraj, Lee said: “Yeah, I would.”
“I have always bowled as well as I could whether I am bowling here or bowling back home. This time I am bowling for Punjab’s IPL team and I will do what is best for the team.”
Fleming minced no words when asked how he felt playing under Dhoni’s captaincy. “Dhoni has done a great job in the last few months. He has won the Twenty20 World Cup. Has won the one-dayers in Australia and now a Test match.
“I am looking forward to playing with him. And playing under him is not a problem. I have also played under Vettori’s captaincy,” he added.
But Yuvraj sought to downplay all this talk about rivals and teammates. “I am excited about this,” he said. “We have been competing against each other and now we will play with them. We have had a practise match yesterday and we will have one more today. We are gelling well.
“As I see it, it’s good to meet cricketers from other countries and interact and learn from them. It is a great opportunity for every international as well as local player.”
However, Moody put things in perspective. “Cricket has a wonderful way of bringing people together. It doesn’t matter if you have played as a team before or not. Everyone is very much aware of each other’s abilities and what they have achieved in the game. There has been lot of hype regarding this league and so there should be. This is a fantastic tournament and it is going to be exciting to watch so many quality players on the same stage.”