One look at Team Mumbai’s Indian Premier League (IPL) itinerary before the tournament began was enough to indicate that the most expensive team’s season was broken into three parts.
The first part had five matches, including two home games, in 10 days (April 20 to 29). The second had four matches, all at home, which were spaced out over a fortnight.
The last phase, which is starting with an away match against Hyderabad on Sunday, will see them play five crucial matches. These five games will decide whether their campaign ends on May 28 or they are among the top four teams who will contest the knockout stage in Mumbai.
The Mumbai team had the most torrid start to the IPL. They lost their first four matches on the trot. Mind you, two of these four losses were against Bangalore and Hyderabad, the weakest teams so far.
However, the tide turned once Shaun Pollock took charge of the team after Harbhajan Singh was banned from the tournament for having slapped Mohali’s S Sreesanth.
Ever since beating Sourav Ganguly’s Kolkata at the Eden Gardens on April 29, Mumbai haven’t looked back. They have been unbeaten in the last five matches that they have played.
And despite Twenty20 being considered as batsmen’s game, Mumbai have shown what bowlers can do if they stick to the basics.
The credit for Mumbai’s success has to be given to their pace factory – Pollock, Ashish Nehra, Dhaval Kulkarni and Rohan Raje – who have been successful in getting the vital breakthroughs every time Mumbai has taken the field in May.
Just as batting was appearing to be their weak link, Sachin Tendulkar returned to the middle and more importantly, Sanath Jayasuriya came into his own.
When Mumbai boarded the plane for Hyderabad on Saturday morning, they were fourth in the points table – the first time they could sniff a spot in the semis. However, if they have to really get close to the knockouts, they have to start their last phase with a win.
Four of their last five matches are away games. And if they don’t make optimum use of Sunday’s match – against one of the weak teams – the semis could be a distant dream.
Nobody in the Mumbai team would have forgotten Adam Gilchrist’s whirlwind century in Navi Mumbai three weeks ago, which took the game away from them. Mumbai’s very own Rohit Sharma has also been in his element playing for the Hyderabad team.
In such a situation, despite having earned the status of favourites for Sunday’s game, Tendulkar was cautious in the pre-match media conference. “We are confident,” Tendulkar said, quickly adding: “but not overconfident.” They better not be.
Nel joins Mumbai
Andre Nel became the latest to join the Indian Premier League (IPL) bandwagon as the South Africa fast bowler signed with the Mumbai team on Saturday.
“Nel is expected to arrive in India tomorrow evening,” team spokesperson said on Saturday. It was not clear whether the lanky bowler will join the team in Hyderabad but he sources made it clear that he wont play on Sunday.