B'lore, Mumbai look evenly matched
After the mauling they received from Kolkata IPL team in the opening match of the Indian Premier League, Bangalore IPL team would be eager to set things right when they take on hosts Mumbai Indians in their second clash at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Sunday.
Bangalore captain Rahul Dravid, after a 140-run loss on Saturday, must ensure not to allow a repeat of the carnage at the hands of Sri Lankan marauder Sanath Jayasuriya, who is bound to open the innings with captain Sachin Tendulkar if the Mumbai batsman regained full fitness from his groin injury.
New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum had taken away the game by carting around the inexperienced Praveen Kumar, the rusty Zaheer Khan back in action after being laid low by his ankle injury for more than three months and young Aussie Ashley Noffke during his pulverising 158 not out.
Absence of two key bowlers, South Africa's exciting pace find Dale Steyn, who is busy in domestic cricket back home, and injured Australian left-arm bowler Nathan Bracken seemed to have unhinged the Bangalore team's bowling attack against Sourav Ganguly's team at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Injured Test captain Anil Kumble was also missed in bowling and it's not likely that he would be fit in time to take the field against Mumbai.
If bowling appeared to be the weak link in the visiting team's armour, their batting too was under question in chase of 222 for 3 despite the presence of Dravid, and South Africans Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher.
The team owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallya will be anxious to put up an improved display and get into the winning ways against an evenly matched opposition.
As far as the Reliance Industries-owned Mumbai team is concerned, their biggest worry is the fitness of Tendulkar.
"There are still two days to go and a decision will be taken whether I will play or not will be taken just before the match," Tendulkar said when the 27-strong team was launched at a function in Mumbai on Thursday.
In case, Tendulkar fails to pass the fitness test, off spinner and vice captain Harbhajan Singh will take over the reins. He would be expected to bring the aggressiveness he displays on the field to the captaincy stakes too.
Even as Tendulkar's fitness remains an issue, the team, with as many as 27 playing members on its rolls, has been going about its task of gearing up with confidence.
It has three wicketkeepers in it, including Luke Ronchi of Western Australia - a hard-hitting bastman yet to play for his country in any form.
Going by the practice sessions, he seems to be the first choice ahead of two other younger Indians - Pinal Shah and Yogesh Takawale - both of whom can hit the ball powerfully.
Among the key players in the team are Harbhajan and former South African captain Shaun Pollock. Pollock has just retired from international cricket and can be miserly with the ball and extremely handy lower down with the bat.
The same holds good for Harbhajan who would be a very crucial bowling arm of the team in the middle of the innings with his ability to check runs as well as take wickets.
For pace and bounce they have the lanky Sri Lankan Dilhara Fernando while left-arm Ashish Nehra, keen to get back into the national team, too can be a handful if and when the ball swings.