Mumbai target repeat show

After their last-gasp win over Kolkata on Sunday, Tendulkars men hold psychological edge

Mumbai target repeat show

Mumbai Indians will look to Tendulkar for another brisk start. AFP

Having stayed at the top of the table for the better part of the season, the Sachin Tendulkar-led side wasn’t even sure of making it to the play-offs until the penultimate day of the league phase. Last year’s finalists, who had won eight of their first 10 matches, have considerably lost the aura around them, and if they are pitted marginally favourites versus Kolkata Knight Riders in Wednesday’s Eliminator, it’s only because they will be playing in front of their home crowd.

Much as Mumbai would want to derive some psychological advantage over Kolkata courtesy their last-gasp win at Eden Gardens on Sunday night, the fact remains that it was more of Knight Riders losing the match than the Indians winning it. With victory and a second-place finish all but assured, Knight Riders managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as a hitherto unimpressive James Franklin and Ambati Rayudu smacked 23 runs off the final over from Lakshmipathi Balaji when they needed 21 to cross the line.

Defeat must have hurt skipper Gautam Gambhir no end and the fiercely combative player that he is, the left-hander would be keen to avenge the loss that came in front of 60,000 supporting fans. Mumbai’s defeats in the last two matches at the Wankhede against Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals should make Knight Riders fancy their chances.

Mumbai appeared impregnable, thanks largely to Tendulkar’s robust form with the bat and Lasith Malinga’s wicket-taking ways. With Rayudu and Rohit Sharma making forceful contributions and Munaf Patel and Harbhajan Singh playing perfect foils to Malinga, Mumbai notched one victory after another, leaving all-comers behind. Tendulkar’s bat since then has gone cold, Malinga’s toe-crushers have lost their penetration power, Rayudu and Rohit haven’t been as effective while Harbhajan and Munaf have lost their bite.

Their biggest headache, however, has been their ineffective foreign contingent. Kieron Pollard, who was retained by the franchise, was suppose to be the game-changer but with 140 runs in the tournament, he has almost been a liability. The big Trinidadian has done reasonably well with the ball and shown remarkable agility in the field, but that is hardly compensation for his lack of runs. Andrew Symonds has been no better either, and it was only in the last game that Franklin made any meaningful contribution.

Besides, Mumbai’s tactics too have been baffling albeit unsurprisingly. They have changed their opening pair almost every match while Pollard has often been held back in the batting order. The promotion of Harbhajan, who scored at run-a-ball, against Kolkata as a pinch-hitter was equally perplexing.

Inconsistent

On the other hand, Knight Riders have been plagued by inconsistency throughout the tournament. Given the depth in their batting and the sting in their attack, they could have done a lot better than finishing fourth in the table. Not unlike Mumbai, Knights too have been mostly dependent on their Indian contingent.

Left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla, with 16 wickets at an economy rate of six, has been their best bowler while Yusuf Pathan (13 wickets) has held more than his own with the ball though Kolkata could do with some meaty contributions from the Baroda right-hander. Likewise, Gambhir and Manoj Tiwary, with over 350 runs each, have been prolific with the bat.
    
Among the foreigners, Jacques Kallis has been expectedly rock-solid, but the same can’t be said of the others. Brett Lee with just four wickets hasn’t been quite the spearhead while the likes of Eoin Morgan, so long he was available, and Shakib Al Hasan have fired only occasionally. Wednesday, which is a do-or-die situation, provides an ideal opportunity for these under-performing imports to set the record straight.

Teams (from): Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar (capt), T Suman, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, James Franklin, Harbhajan Singh, Ali Murtuza, Munaf Patel, Abu Nachim, Lasith Malinga, Andrew Symonds, Rajagopal Sathish, Davy Jacobs, Aiden Blizzard, Yuzvendra Chahal, Dhawal Kulkarni, Sarul Kanwar, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Tare, Santosh Yadav.

Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Jacques Kallis, Shreevats Goswami, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Rajat Bhatia, Shakib Al Hasan, Iqbal Abdulla, Brett Lee, Lakshmipathi Balaji, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Pradeep Sangwan, James Pattinson, Jaidev Unadkat, Sarabjit Ladda, Manvinder Bisla.

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