Fit-again Tendulkar gives Mumbai the edge
Mumbai, May 13
Boosted by the availability of their icon and captain Sachin Tendulkar who has recovered from his groin injury, hosts Mumbai go into their IPl clash against the high-flying Chennai eager to make it four wins in-a-row at the Wankhede Stadium tomorrow.
After being forced to sit out of the first seven matches of the Twenty20 league, the fit-again master batsman would be eager to stamp his authority on the proceedings immediately in what is for his team, lying sixth, a very critical match.
The Mumbai outfit started the IPL on a poor note, without Tendulkar in the playing XI, and slid to four straight defeats before arresting the downward-going graph.
The Harbhajan Singh slapping episode of April 25 leading to the booting out of the off spinner by the IPL authorities only added to their woes.
But victories in their last three matches, including against top performers Delhi and Rajasthan, have boosted the sagging morale of the team and Tendulkar's return should only add to their confidence in what is the ace batsman's home ground.
The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Chennai, on the other hand, started in spectacular fashion before stumbling a bit only to regain poise with a fine 18-run victory over Punjab on May 10.
Both the teams seem to have settled down after an uncertain period, initially for Mumbai and after the departure of Australians Matthew Hayden and Mike Hussey for Chennai, and tomorrow's clash under lights promises plenty of fire-works for the crowd.
Comeback man Laxmipathy Balaji performed brilliantly with a five-wicket haul that included the IPL's first hat-trick, and his duel with two of the world's most attacking batsmen - Tendulkar and Sri Lankan great Sanath Jayasuriya - would be worth the wait.
Veteran Jayasuriya, the Marauder from Matara, has not really exploded in full might, but only given glimpses of what could happen if he blooms fully and hopefully for the hosts it will happen in Tendulkar's company.
Mumbai batting, overall, has not succeeded to an extent it was expected to, indicated clearly by the fact that Robin Uthappa has been their leading run-getter with 211 runs in seven ties, but without a half century to his credit.
At critical times the home team has lost well-set batsmen and this trend needs to be reversed if they are to outperform Chennai and exact revenge for the defeat in the first leg their clash on April 23 at Chennai.
Tendulkar has said the bowlers have taken early wickets in the matches the team had won and this was the key for the turnaround in their fortunes.
Shaun Pollock, who led the side admirably in Tendulkar's absence, would once again lead the attack but to the good tidings of the team Ashish Nehra seems to have struck form and also fetched the man of the match award in the last tie against Rajasthan Royals.
Mumbai's spin bowling still looks a bit thin after the exit of Harbhajan and Chennai would look to take advantage of this factor when they bat.
West Indian all rounder Dwayne Bravo has done his bit in the Mumbai revival after joining the team late in place of the injured Lasith Malinga and he would be keen to leave this edition with a bang after playing for the franchise team tomorrow and on May 16 against Kolkata.
Chennai would be pleased that homegrown talents S Badrinath and Balaji were impressive performers in the last tie, but need their openers S Vidyut and ex-New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming to fire in unison to stop Mumbai.
Suresh Raina has had a few starts while Dhoni has, expectedly, been the mainstay in the middle order.
With Albie Morkel showing his abilities with both bat and ball, and the world's leading Test wicket taker Muthiah Muralitharan in the ranks, Chennai have good wicket takers at their disposal when Punjab-born pacer Manpreet Singh Gony is added to the overall picture.
The teams (from)
Mumbai : Sachin Tendulkar (capt.), Sanath Jayasuriya, Robin Uthappa, Dwayne Bravo, Shaun Pollock, Yogesh Takawale (wk), Abhishek Nayar, Rohan Raje, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ashish Nehra, Ashwell Prince, Loots Bosman, Luke Ronchi, Dominic Thornely, Dilhara Fernando, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Saurabh Tiwary, Gaurav Dhiman, Pinal Shah, Rajesh Pawar, Musavir Khote, Sidharth Chitnis, Swapnil Singh, Ankeet Chavan and Vikrant Yeligati.
Chennai : M S Dhoni (capt., wk), Stephen Fleming, Vidyut S, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, A Morkel, Chamara Kapugedara, M Muralitharan, M Gony, P Amarnath, L Balaji, P Patel, M Ntini, Joginder Sharma, V Kadbe, S Anirudh, R Ashwin, A Mukund, A Kartik, N Einstein, S Jakati, Suresh Kumar and Sudeep Tyagi.