It's certainly not wise to predict a favourite in a contest as uncertain as Twenty20. Yet, it would be hard to resist putting your money on Mohali team when they lock horns with Jaipur team in the latter's backyard on Monday.
Agreed, the Mohali team, like Jaipur, lost their inaugural match, but they, unlike Jaipur, didn't go down without putting up a tough fight. They fought tooth and nail even after Mike Hussey had battered them out of the game, refusing to surrender like Jaipur did in their nine-wicket thrashing.
And that's probably why Mohali skipper Yuvraj Singh didn't look too perturbed. He would have realised that there was little they, or for that matter anyone else, could have done after someone comes up with as spectacular a knock as Mike Hussey did.
So, instead of watching the glass half empty, he preferred to see it half full, and talked about carrying forward the positives drawn from the contest. And there were quite a few of them; the biggest one apparently being the manner in which their batting line-up, spearheaded by a fighting 71 from James Hopes, held their own in the face of a mountain of runs by Chennai. "I think there was nothing much wrong with what we did; we were just outmatched by Hussey. One could do little when chasing 241 — a total good enough even in a 50 over game," he said.
Jaipur, on the other hand, have a host of problems. Their batsmen looked listless, their running between the wickets was clueless, and then their bowlers too left a lot to be desired as Delhi cruised their way to a comprehensive nine-wicket win. Well, Shane Warne — the coach cum captain — has his task cut out. He would quickly need to put his brain to work to device methods to first lift team spirit after what was a crushing defeat and then get his boys into top performance mode. Not easy by any stretch of imagination, given the not-too-great abilities of the team he is leading.
But Mohali, too aren't without concern, no matter how tempted their skipper felt to blame the defeat entirely on Mike Hussey's superb effort. Hussey, undoubtedly, played a spectacular innings, but then one can't expect an attack comprising the likes of Lee, Sreesanth and Irfan to be butchered so mercilessly. How could such an attack squander close to 60 runs in the last three overs?
But Tom Moody’s a smart coach and with the players at least wanting to take the game’s masala format very seriously, he would probably be figuring out how his bowlers can best avoid being bashed at the death. Nevertheless, we may still be headed for a lop-sided contest, unless one of Warne's men does a McCullum or a Hussey.