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Top draw: Mumbai’s only reason to smile

The opening combination of Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya has lived up to its reputation, reports Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: May 27, 2008 01:59 IST
Amol Karhadkar

The opening combination of Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya was the one to watch out for even before the Indian Premier League (IPL) commenced. And the duo --- despite making the crowds wait for half the tournament before eventually walking out to open the Mumbai innings together --- has lived up to its reputation.

In the six matches the duo has opened Mumbai's batting, including Monday's match in Jaipur against the league toppers, it has averaged 50.67, including three 50-plus stands.

Compare this with Mumbai's seven opening stands before Tendulkar recovered from a groin injury that kept him away from competitive cricket for almost two months, and you will realise the worth of their contribution.

Mumbai used three different combinations in their first seven matches. Australian Luke Ronchi accompanied Jayasuriya in the first four matches, and the combination never got going. Its average stand was 11.75, with 15 against Hyderabad on April 27 being the highest. Then local youngster Ajinkya Rahane replaced Ronchi in Kolkata, where Mumbai opened their IPL account with a convincing win. But Rahane and Jayasuriya could put up just 16 for the opening wicket.

The next two matches saw Maharashtra's Yogesh Takawale walking out with the Sri Lankan to take guard at the start of their innings. And this proved to be the most successful combination before Tendulkar's return, as they added 46 and 41 against Delhi and Jaipur, respectively.

As a result, the average opening stand for Mumbai in the first half of the tournament was 21.43. And in a format where good starts matter a lot, this was way below Mumbai supporters' expectations.

And Tendulkar and Jayasuriya's contribution at the top of the order has also reflected in the eventual outcome of the match. While the team has won three of the five matches so far, the two matches they lost went right down to the wire.