The see-saw battle has begun among the fancied teams for a place in the IPL-IV play-offs. On Saturday, Kolkata Knight Riders playing its eighth match of the competition quelled Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), snatched two points and thereby dislodged Mumbai Indians (MI) from the pedestal.
This week, MI would seek to regain the top position in the leaderboard. It has three matches lined up this week — against Kings XI Punjab at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday, versus Pune Warriors at the D.Y. Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai on Wednesday and against Delhi Daredevils at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.
MI, which has fielded only 13 players in seven matches, would feel comfortable playing on its home turf, but its performance has been far from spectacular at the Wankhede. In fact, after winning two away matches at the Ferozeshah Kotla and Chinnaswamy, it was battered by newcomer Kochi Tuskers Kerala because of Brendon McCullum and Mahela Jayawardene's wherewithal to deflect the much wonted yorker-lengths from Lasith Malinga.
Sachin Tendukar, quite upset, pointed to the slip-shod work by Rohit Sharma when he dropped McCullum off the first ball.
After being thrashed by eight wickets and with one over to spare, MI beat Pune Warriors and Chennai Super Kings (CSK), but only by a margin of eight runs against the defending champion.
So it would be with some trepidation that Tendulkar's team would foresee events unfolding against KXIP, and especially for the fact that the latter has top-notch batsmen in Adam Gilchrist, Shaun Marsh, Dinesh Karthik and Paul Valthaty, who scored a match-winning 63-ball unbeaten 120 against CSK at Mohali.
Abhishek Nayar bought at $800,000 too would be looking forward to strike form and add to the meagre collection of 43 from six innings.
With the unrelenting high day temperature, curator Sudhir Naik would have ensured plenty of watering and rolling to maintain the pitch in order to encourage the stroke-players, seamers and spinners.
MI has lost two out of seven; the Rajasthan Royals being responsible for the second defeat. Skittled out for 94 by off-spinner Johan Botha, left-arm spinner Ashok Menaria and leg-spinner Shane Warne would have shaken MI, but it would have noticed that the Gilchrist-led KXIP does not have a skilful and potent finger-wrist spinner to play havoc with their nerves and footwork.
There are areas which MI would like to see a change in fortune; runs from the opening partner to Tendulkar and from Kieron Pollard in the middle order. The Trinidadian has been a livewire on the field, but he has faced only 18 balls in four innings. KXIP's fortunes have revolved around the run-making potential of Gilchrist (177), Marsh (184) and Valthaty (268).
It lost half its side for 36 against the Pune Warriors and four batsmen for 53 by the tenth over against Kolkata Knight Riders and was trounced. MI will target the top three and Malinga as usual will be its chief weapon.