Battle of titans in Mumbai

Royal Challengers to take on Mumbai Indians in IPL semis today

Battle of titans in Mumbai

Keeping vigil:  A sniffer dog checks the D Y Patil Stadium ahead of Wednesday’s IPL semifinal match in Navi Mumbai on Tuesday. PTI

In a match of this magnitude –– a place in the final and in the Champions League to be played later, on the line –– with two star-studded sides having a go at each other, one stand-out individual performance can make all the difference.

With an array of domestic and international batting stars to choose from, Anil Kumble and coach Ray Jennings will have to embark on a delicate balancing act while choosing the right combination for this make-or-break battle.

Match-winners
The list of match-winners on either side is awesome – Pietersen, Uthappa, Taylor, Steyn, Kumble will all find an equal in Tendulkar,  Pollard, Zaheer, Malinga and Harbhajan.

Throw in Kohli and Dravid in the Challengers set-up, and Rayudu and Manoj Tiwary for the Indians, and you know why the first semifinal is being billed as the clash of the heavyweights.

Having justifiably believed that they would have the undivided backing from 40,000-plus spectators at the Chinnaswamy stadium, Royal Challengers Bangalore must now quickly reconcile to the fact that they will have no home advantage.

The Chinnaswamy Stadium crowd had easily established itself as the most passionate and team-lifting fan-base of the IPL, and had geared up for one final show of support for its stars when Saturday evening’s bomb blasts outside the stadium ended their participation in the competition. 

The Challengers haven’t travelled as well as they would have liked, but their less than impeccable away record will be balanced by the fact that the Mumbai Indians have had no previous experience of a knockout game in any of the two previous editions.

The first-time semifinalists can afford to take very little for granted against last year’s runners-up, who have a more rounded and complete look about them now than when they went down by seven runs to Deccan Chargers in Johannesburg in the title round.

The Challengers will benefit from having scrapped their way into the knockout stage, while the Mumbai Indians will mildly worry about how the younger lot will acquit itself in the pressure-cooker situation of a must-win game.

For both, it will be as much test of skill as composure.

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