They did not have many opportunities to face off when playing domestic cricket but the Indian Premier League ensures at least two meetings in each edition between Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

The stalwarts continue to be motivating figures but not in a format they would have preferred even during their younger days. Dravid is Rajasthan Royals’ mentor and captain. Tendulkar has a similar role with Mumbai Indians, minus the captaincy pressures.

But then he is so used to pressure that Tendulkar cannot desist from passing incessant messages and tips to bowlers or batting partners.

MI, by drafting Ricky Ponting as captain, has put faith in experience. The youngsters do come up with some exciting deeds, but it is the calming assurance of a Tendulkar or a Ponting that counts in the MI camp. For Dravid, composure is an innate quality and he brings lot of it to the job.

These three will be in the thick of action when MI and RR meet in a contest expected to whet the appetite of the new generation of cricket watchers.

True, the T20 format demands racy and instinctive response to a situation but the basics still hold good and is best illustrated by the dignity that Ponting, Dravid and Tendulkar bring to this league.

Strong character

That these veterans are bravely holding their reputation in a young man’s format speaks for their strong character. They have served the game long with distinction and their fans would love some more vintage stuff from them.

Ponting and Dravid may have retired but then they continue to play for the ‘love’ of the game. So does Tendulkar. Tendulkar orchestrated a 10-wicket triumph when the teams played here last.

In Munaf Patel, Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson MI has a trio that can swing the game on its head, not to forget the pair of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.

The exciting strokeplay of Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma can be a compelling reason to follow the contest with the likes of Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu providing depth. MI can fancy its chances at the SMS Stadium but RR is a tough opponent at home.

Ajinkya Rahane and Shane Watson are a capable opening pair, young Kerala wicketkeeper Sanju Samson is living up to his promise seen in domestic circuit. And, of course, Dravid at the helm is the key factor. A fiery clash is in the offing.

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