Mumbai Indians' Sachin Tendulkar jogs with teammates during a practice session a day before their IPL-5 match against Delhi Daredevils in New Delhi. PTI Photo by Aman Sharma
It is being billed as the biggest game yet in this season's IPL. Sourav Ganguly's Pune Warriors attracted hordes of extra fans to the Ferozshah Kotla last Saturday, and upset hosts Delhi Daredevils.
But Friday's encounter between the Daredevils, who are atop the points table as the league hits the halfway point, and the Mumbai Indians is seen as a Sachin Tendulkar versus Virender Sehwag blockbuster.
There is plenty of capital connect to the encounter. After a tough year in national colours while playing abroad in terms of form and fitness, the Daredevils skipper is on song again. In the last 12 months, there has been debate whether Sehwag's see-it-hit-it method had run its course, and whether the 33-year-old will have to tweak his batting approach.
The Najafgarh enforcer made it clear before the IPL he would open despite the batting riches available, and stick to a style that has fetched him so much international success, and a Test average of 50 plus --- a key yardstick while rating great batsmen. Sehwag has looked in good touch from the start, and though his blitz against the Warriors at home did not result in victory, his second half-century in a row - 87 not out off 48 balls - subdued the Warriors.
Mumbai Indians, after the late charge in Mohali against Kings XI on Wednesday, will hope they can build their game further. All eyes will be on Sachin Tendulkar. On Thursday, after his nomination to the Rajya Sabha was confirmed, the master batsman headed to the nets in the evening. He batted for a while to get his focus back into cricket before carrying his two bats as he headed to the dressing room, for the masseur's table.
While Tendulkar's finger injury sidelined him for four games, MI have been pushed on the back-foot due to Malinga's back problem. The Lankan slinger played the first four games (3 wins, 1 loss) and has missed the last three (1-2). He bowled at the nets but rated his chances of playing as 50-50.
Mumbai Indians know their chances will take a hit unless their bowlers, particularly Munaf Patel and skipper Harbhajan Singh, lift their game against the Daredevils' formidable batting. The Daredevils coach Eric Simons also wanted to get the balance right, after spinners went for too many against the Warriors in Kotla. "We have to try and use the conditions. It is about reading them right."