The Tournament reaches its climax and the organisers of the IPL would be happy that the final four were not decided until the penultimate day. Our win against Hyderabad was doubly satisfying because it not only got us through to the semifinal, but it also ensured that we did it on our own merit and not because some teams won and some others lost. When the IPL lost some of the Kiwis because of their commitments with the national team, there was talk that we will be getting some of them back should their teams make it to the semifinal. Sadly, we will not be having Jacob Oram back, but I am sure that he is following IPL action keenly from England.
The fact that we could have sealed a semis berth much earlier does not bother me too much. As I said, it kept the interest in the tournament going, and there was no let up in the intensity from the players as a result. The loss against Bangalore was a little disappointing, but it's good that we have got that one bad game out of the way at a time when we could afford it.
Coming back to the semifinals, by the time you read this,the first onewould be over between Rajasthan and Delhi. The former have been the surprise of the tournament, and though they lost their last league game, they have outstripped the other teams by far. Our opponents, the Kings XI Punjab have also come into the semifinals with a very impressive record. Unlike us, they made their way into the semis with a couple of games to go. They have been one of the best teams on display after the first two outings, and they start the semifinals as favourites. It's true that we have won both our games against Yuvraj's team in the league stage, but I would still consider them favourites.
This does not mean that we are not confident, albeit quietly so. We know that we have our plans in place, and if we execute them we will make it to the finals. The team has really gelled well, and youngsters like Suresh Raina, S. Badrinath and M.S. Gony have improved with every game. We have gelled well as a unit and it has been a great 44-day experience even for those who have not played in the squad.
When I look at some of the youngsters in the squad, even those who did not get a game, I am amazed to see how they have benefitted from playing express fast bowlers, meeting international coaches and following exercise and rehab schedules that have been designed by some of the best trainers and physios in the business. Seeing how champion players prepare, focus and think has been a big plus for the youngsters.
The biggest beneficiary has been domestic cricket. I remember being a domestic level player and hardly getting to play against Indian international players, leave alone the foreign ones. The new generation will be that much more ready for the international stage thanks to the IPL and the exposure that comes with it.
Today’s game will be a real exciting outing for all of us, and if the wicket is anything like it was when we played in Mumbai last, chasing would be a better option. Shaun Marsh is in tremendous touch so it's important for our new ball bowlers to bowl well. The Mumbai pitches have seen some big scoring games.