The T20 format is such that upsets are round the corner and teams that have done badly at the start of the league can surprise those that have begun well. The Kings XI Punjab have done just that by beating two teams in good nick.
They first beat the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens despite having to chase over 200 runs and then, at home in Mohali, they beat the table-toppers Mumbai Indians. They are at the bottom of the table with no chance of qualifying and so the pressure is totally off, and it shows in the way the players are playing carefree cricket.
There is a thin line between carefree and careless cricket and the Punjab boys were guilty of transgressing that line a bit too often in the first half of the tournament and that’s why they ruined their chances of getting into the last-four.
The Mumbai Indians have found that it’s not been as smooth a sailing as they had thought. It could well be that since most of their earlier games were at home they didn’t have to play in unfamiliar territory.
More than playing, it’s travelling that is most taxing. The checking out of hotels, waiting in airport lounges and sitting in cramped seats must be exhausting them.
Then, once the team reaches the hotel, the wait for the allocation of rooms, identification of baggage and trying to settle down begins. All these are issues that can affect the mental equilibrium. And that is not going to help especially in such a tight format like the T20 where there is no time to even take a deep breath.
The Mumbai Indians seem to be relying too much on skipper Tendulkar and if he is not there to guide them while batting, the others look a bit lost. Both Tiwary and Rayudu have shown glimpses of potential but have not gone on to play a defining innings as yet. They also look a lot more comfortable batting first when there is not the same pressure as when chasing a total.
They will be playing a team that has hardly ever lost at Jaipur and so will be full of confidence. The Rajasthan Royals have also won their last few games with authority and are looking rejuvenated, especially with the return of Shane Watson from Australia duty.
It is not a must-win game for the teams for they seem to be pretty comfortable on the points table, but both Warne and Tendulkar know that the fickle nature of the format means they cannot afford to let their guard down. PMG