A small group of youngsters almost skipped a heartbeat as the Mumbai Indians trooped in on Wednesday afternoon. Their searching eyes were looking for Sachin Tendulkar. They knew that the Chennai heat and humidity had drained him completely the previous day and hence suspected that he might not have travelled to Chandigarh.
“There he is,” screamed one of them as the man hurried into the hotel’s restaurant. And as each one of them caught a fleeting glimpse of the maestro, the strained eyes and taut faces relaxed into a satisfied smile.
Apart from the obvious reasons, the Kings XI’s poor showing, which has seen them become the first team to fall out of the race to the semis, has made the fans here look forward to the arrival of Tendulkar even more enthusiastically. “The Kings XI have let us down this time. So, there couldn’t be a bigger consolation for us than watching Tendulkar play here,” said Ankit, one of the youngsters. The other player to attract the maximum eyeballs was one of their own — Harbhajan Singh. “Wish he had been picked by the Kings XI,” said another.
Even as the Mumbai Indians are riding high on success and confidence, they have a record here that they would like to set straight at the first opportunity. They were mauled by the hosts here in 2008, and the stand-in skipper, Harbhajan Singh, had taken out his frustration on Sreesanth. And given the diametrically opposite form of both teams, the Mumbai Indians shouldn’t break a sweat on way to avenging that defeat.
Besides, the Mumbai Indians would be keen to seal the win here for two more reasons. First, they have lost their last game to Chennai and they would certainly not want to slip into a longish losing streak at such a late stage in the tournament. Secondly, a win here would more or less confirm them a place in the semifinals. And once they make the cut, it will give them the freedom to rest their key players and prepare better for the knock out games.
The Kings XI, on the other hand, have hit a dead end. With a nine-wicket loss at the hands of the Rajasthan Royals the other day, they have bowed out. The team would now want to play out the last four games without incurring damage.