Litmus test for Kochi against strong Mumbai

Win is essential for Tuskers to instill confidence in their ranks

 Tendulkar and Malinga have been in the forefront of Mumbai Indians’ consecutive easy away wins over strong rivals Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore, and the duo would be eyeing to carry on their impressive show against debutante Kochi, who are yet to register a win in the event.

Tendulkar has played the anchoring role brilliantly at the top of the order, and used his vast knowledge and experience to accumulate runs while coming up with unbeaten knocks of 48 and 55.

Mumbai Indians top-order, in particular Ambati Rayudu who played a very good innings of 63 not out against Royal Challengers Bangalore, have given Tendulkar very good support.

The bowlers, led by Malinga, have also risen to the occasion in brilliant style to make it a superb all-round display for Mumbai Indians.

Malinga blew away Delhi with his toe-crushing and swinging yorkers for excellent figures of five for 13. Though he went for some runs in his second spell against Bangalore, his initial burst that got him two early wickets helped Mumbai restrict their southern rivals for a modest 140. Others, including World Cup-winning Indian team members Munaf Patel and Harbhajan Singh, have also been on the dot for the Mumbai outfit.

On the other hand, Kochi, in their inaugural season, have had a troubled beginning. Kochi have posted decent totals of 161 and 148 against Bangalore and Pune Warriors in their first two games, but their bowling department let them down on both the occasions.

Against Pune, Kochi were in serious trouble at 24 for four but an excellent partnership of 88 in 64 balls between Ravindra Jadeja and Brad Hodge saved the day for the Mahela Jayawardene-led side.

Kochi skipper Jayawardene too has been a disappointment as he has not found even a small per cent of the touch. Openers Brendon McCullum and his partner VVS Laxman also will have to fire in unison.

However, it is the form of their new ball bowlers RP Singh, the leading wicket taker in the first three editions combined, and temperamental S Sreesanth, which remains a major concern for Kochi.

If that was not enough, retired Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan too has been struggling and was taken apart by a little-known domestic cricketer, Mohnish Mishra in the end overs against Pune.

And Jayawardene was candid enough to admit that the team might look at other options in the bowling attack for future matches. “(Changing Murali) It depends on the opposition. We could use different combinations. We are trying to see what the best eleven could be. We have to come out with a game plan for Friday,” he said. With Australian all-rounder John Hastings expected to join the team before the next month, Kochi would have more options in their bowling combination.

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