As Indian Premier League champions, much attention was on Mumbai Indians going into the Champions League. But defeat to Rajasthan Royals in the opener and Monday’s rain-forced abandonment against Otago Volts threatens to derail their campaign.
It is not just that their hopes no longer rest in their hands. The tournament, struggling due to a lack of interest, will also feel the pinch if MI miss out on having a shot at adding to their IPL trophy.
The Mohali stadium wore an empty look during the qualifiers last week. Ranchi too did not attract many fans for the game involving non-Indian teams.
However, the numbers swelled on Sunday night with local hero MS Dhoni led Chennai Super Kings in the second game. The turnout was impressive in Jaipur, but only because Rajasthan Royals were playing at home.
Mumbai Indians underlined their ability to attract crowds as 40,000 tickets were sold, this for a match played, not at the Wankhede but at their adopted home on a Monday. Around 15,000 fans were there for the abandoned first game between Perth Scorchers and Highveld Lions, but almost all of them were there to watch the IPL champions. Fans wearing MI jerseys and carrying team flags thronged the stadium more than six hours before the scheduled start of the Mumbai game.
Any bus entering the stadium was greeted with fans waving posters of Sachin Tendulkar, in the hope that he would make an appearance. The crowd waited patiently, chanting ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ and ‘Sachin, Sachin’. Yet, all the adoration that this team brings to this event is in serious jeopardy, after the match officials decided to call-off the game at 7.30 pm.
But the numbers that matter are against them. Royals, having beaten MI, are on four points with three games in hand. However, with two games remaining, MI (2 points) can end with a maximum of 10 points. Otago Volts, Highveld Lions and Perth Scorchers (all on 2 points) have three games left.
If all of them win two of the three games and finish on same points as Mumbai, it will go down to net run rate. And if Mumbai lose even one game, they will head for the exit door.
Mumbai have a mountain to climb. But with the impact they have on the event, the organisers would hope they scale the peak.