Their title defense in danger of coming unhinged after three straight losses, holders Deccan Chargers need to quickly rediscover their momentum against table toppers Mumbai Indians in the teams’ second leg clash of the Indian Premier League here on Saturday.

The Adam Gilchrist-led Deccan were flying high after they recovered from their loss to Kolkata Knight Riders at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai in the tournament opener on March 12. They won three matches in a row and zoomed to the top of the table.

But a loss to the Shane Warne-led Rajasthan Royals at Ahmedabad on March 26 brought them back to the ground with a thump and also started their steep slump.

Losses to Mumbai Indians in their ‘home’ tie at the D Y Patil Stadium two days later and to the Knight Riders last night at the Eden Gardens have pushed the holders down to seventh in the league table going into their eighth round encounter against the Sachin Tendulkar-led Mumbai.

It won’t be easy to pick themselves up from the floor after this losing sequence, besides the physical exertion of travelling from Kolkata to Mumbai today after finishing their match past 11 p m last night.

But that’s the hard task facing Deccan, whose batting and bowling collectively failed against Kolkata.

Their main worry is the total loss of form of their dashing skipper Adam Gilchrist who has tallied just 10 runs in these defeats. It’s imperative that the former Australia stumper rediscovers his magical form with the bat against Mumbai.

The previous encounter between the two teams was taken away from the Chargers by Harbhajan Singh who first smashed his way to 49 not out in 18 balls to give Mumbai a fighting score to defend and then dismissed Gilchrist for a blob off the second ball of their innings.

Harbhajan seems to find something extra within when he faces the duo of Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds on the opposite side for reasons that go back to India-Australia Test rubbers in the past.

Apart from Gilchrist’s poor form, the Chargers have also been let down by Herschelle Gibbs who has been unable to convert his starts into something more meaningful either as opener or at one-down.

This duo’s failure to fire in unison at the top has resulted in extra burden falling on Symonds and Rohit Sharma in the middle. Despite their best efforts the Chargers have fallen short in their last three ties.

The Deccan bowling attack too has been put under pressure. West Indian fast bowler Kemar Roach, who was bought at the players’ auction with great determination by the Hyderabad franchise, seems to have lost his confidence since Harbhajan took him apart in one over in Navi Mumbai.

He has conceded 32 runs against Mumbai and 48 against Kolkata. Sri Lanka veteran Chaminda Vaas, who gave way to Roach, might be brought back for tomorrow’s match.

The team has the option to bring in Australian all rounder Ryan Harris who has arrived here from taking part in the Test series in New Zealand.

Mumbai, on the other hand, are sitting pretty with their domestic talent like Shikhar Dhawan, Saurabh Tiwary, Ambati Rayudu and R Satish coming up with good scores when needed to support the splendid work by captain Tendulkar who has scored four half centuries.

The batting came under some pressure against the Chargers last Sunday but was bailed out by Harbhajan’s lusty blows that turned the match around.

In their previous match against Kings XI Punjab things became a bit difficult with Tendulkar’s early dismissal but the others did enough to see the team through.

West Indians Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard are yet to be in full bloom but there are two other problems Mumbai need to address at the earliest, their tardy over-rate for one and some shoddy wicket keeping.

Tendulkar has been fined twice by the IPL authorities for his bowlers’ inability to get a control on the over-rate and a third transgression would lead to the champion batsman being forced to sit out from the subsequent tie.

Aditya Tare had been found wanting in his work behind the stumps and makeshift ‘keeper Rayudu too has fumbled, but luckily for Mumbai his lapses have not proved costly as yet.

The Mumbai bowling attack has been brilliant with Lasith Malinga being the pick of the new ball bowlers and Zaheer Khan not too far behind and Harbhajan effectively shutting up one end during the middle overs.

Mumbai certainly seem to have the edge in the encounter but things can change very quickly in T20 format which is what the home team should be wary of.

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