Rohit’s men, though, will draw strength from their vast range of options

Cricket should take the front seat when Mumbai Indians meets Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League qualifier at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Tuesday.

These are troubled times for the game but there is a reassuring force, glowing for 23 years, giving cricket the credibility it needs, now more than ever.

Scandals and controversies have been part of the game, from Bodyline to spot-fixing, but icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble are testimony to integrity emerging unscathed when confronted by hostile circumstances.

Tendulkar and Kumble witnessed tortuous moments in the dressing room when Indian cricket was ravaged by match-fixing at the beginning of 2000. All had seemed lost but these two pillars of Indian cricket stood behind skipper Sourav Ganguly and prevented further disintegration of the team and the image of the game.

Support came from John Wright, the coach who taught India to win overseas; and win consistently. It is a pleasant coincidence that Tendulkar, Kumble and Wright form the think-tank of Mumbai Indians. There is no doubt the image of IPL has suffered at the hands of three greedy players from Rajasthan Royals.

Cruel irony

It was cruel irony that a dressing room, which was lit up by the presence of Rahul Dravid, nurtured such detrimental individuals. The impact was visible when Rajasthan Royals took the field for its last league encounter. It lost the match but not the motivation to put up a brave front.

The IPL, a domestic tournament in the strictest sense, has a niche audience and promotes a brand of cricket that has caught the attention of the youth.

If the purists look the other way it does not really matter, for the tournament has come to command an international following. Mumbai Indians, CSK, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad, with V.V.S. Laxman as the mentor, making it to the eliminator and qualifier stage is in keeping with their deeds.

CSK, the most compact combination in all the editions of the IPL, and Mumbai Indians have drawn strength from their vast range of options in batting and bowling.

There will be plenty to look forward to with CSK clearly better equipped to stifle the ambitions of Mumbai Indians.

M.S. Dhoni can ‘kill’ an attack single-handed. So can Suresh Raina and Michael Hussey.

Batsmen such as Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Dinesh Karthik are known to make a mockery of the field settings.

It can be fun for two days at the Kotla. So, forget the spot-fixers and celebrate those who have kept the game alive.