They have been the pillars of strength for Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders. If Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir are the kings of their teams, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary are the 'princes in waiting'.
The two maverick cricketers have been the impact players of their clubs and played important roles in their team's current campaign. It is only fitting that in the big game on Wednesday, their teammates are looking up to them to produce another solid show. Their personal battle could well prove the difference.
In 12 innings in the competition, Sharma has scored 359 runs at a strike rate of 127.30. Tiwary has made 355 in 13 innings at 111.63.
There is more riding on Sharma. After starting strongly, MI are in disarray at the business end of the tournament. Their composition has gone for a toss. The top order is wobbly and the lower order hasn't been able to provide the thrust.The home team haven't been able to find a solid opening partner for Tendulkar. Ambati Rayudu, so sure and dominating at the start, hasn't maintained his form. The expected fireworks from their big guns, Andrew Symonds and Kieron Pollard, haven't really come.
It's only natural, that the person in charge is feeling the pressure. Tendulkar feels weighed down by the sudden dip in his team's fortunes and it has reflected in his batting. He has not dominated like he did in the first half of the tournament (His strike rate has slipped from the 130s to 110s). The situation calls for Sharma to step up and share the challenge.
"If he stays at the wicket, he will be the game-changer. He has the game to score big and at a fast clip," said Dinesh Lad, Sharma's coach and mentor.
On the other hand, Tiwary has the cushion of playing in a line-up brimming with confidence. Skipper Gautam Gambhir, Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate provide KKR batting a solid look. What adds to the two batsmen's appeal as heirs to the throne is they are local products - from Mumbai and Kolkata respectively. Although the IPL is not really about the home angle, the clubs would trade anything to have a local hero.
The pressure is on Mumbai, but Sharma's coach says, his ward thrives in it. "He's always been in the leadership role since his junior cricket days and takes responsibility and plays. He will lead Mumbai Indians in the future. He has the experience at Deccan Chargers where he was vice-captain," Lad said.
The playoff will be the acid test if they want to be crowned.
Others in waiting
Virat Kohli (RCB): He may not be a Bangalore boy, but fits in nicely with the spirit of his franchise owners.
Suresh Raina (CSK): The left-handed batsman is well known for his attacking batting.