Even though there is still a long way to go in the Indian Premier League, a hint of panic in the MI ranks is there to see.
Mumbai Indians captain Sachin Tendulkar smiles after winning the toss against Royal Challengers Bangalore before the start of their IPL 4 match in Bangalore.
The injury-blow to star bowler Lasith Malinga has added to the insecurity. It is in this backdrop that Sachin Tendulkar will make his return to the side after missing four games due to an injured hand.
The team has been trying everything it can to get its star player fit for the game.
The batsman has been out of action after being hit on his bottom hand by a Doug Bollinger snorter in the opening game in Chennai.
On his part, Tendulkar also hasn't left any stone unturned in his bid to play. He had regular nets for the whole week, sometimes individual sessions as well.
Even though coach Robin Singh declared Tendulkar would be playing, it remains to be seen how the opener copes with the backfoot play, especially in the execution of strokes which will need heavy support of his bottom hand.
In Saturday's practice, he didn't look fully comfortable playing the shorter stuff as he still appeared to be feeling the pain in his injured hand. It didn't help that he took another blow on his hand off a delivery by Sri Lankan recruit, Thisara Perera.
His batting session against the pacers ended abruptly when on the next ball he felt acute pain due to jarring on contact. The frustration showed when he came out and threw down the gloves in disgust.
But just when it looked like the player had given up on playing Sunday's game, he resumed his batting practice and batted for nearly half an hour against tennis balls which Jonty Rhodes was serving with a tennis racquet.
He's no longer the captain, but Tendulkar is aware that his team will be looking up to him for inspiration as well as runs as they try to lift their campaign starting with Sunday's game against Kings XI Punjab. Their batting, except in the match against Rajasthan Royals, hasn't really clicked as a unit.
Openers' big threat
In fact, the opening combination has been MI's biggest concern. In the last game against Daredevils, they tried an all-foreign combination of Richard Levi and Davy Jacobs, with disastrous results.
Levi has been strong against the pace bowlers but opponents have effectively used spin to stop him.
Tendulkar's return, however, should completely change the equation, and put the pressure on the opponents. Till now it has been easy to use the slow bowlers against MI's foreign openers. With Tendulkar's presence it will run the risk of becoming easy fodder for the maestro.
MI's main worry though will be its pace department where the absence of Malinga has weakened its ammo. It puts extra responsibility on skipper Harbhajan Singh to lead the bowling attack.
Not in action
The off-spinner has been strangely reluctant in bowling himself, but in the Sri Lankan ace's absence, the onus falls on him to lead the attack.
Seven teams are clustered between eight to six points, including MI, and the last couple of games in the first round of the League have become crucial.
Placed second from bottom, Kings XI will be hoping for individual brilliance from their main players to make a match of it as man for man, the odds are staked heavily against them.