Mumbai Indians' decision to give its stalwarts a breather in the last league game of the DLF IPL 3 in Kolkata is an indication of the momentum within the squad.
Rhythm matters a lot in T20 cricket and Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Kieron Pollard appear confident of switching on in the semifinals the form which collectively kept them a step ahead of its rivals.
The league-topper faces off against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first semifinal on Wednesday at the D.Y. Patil Stadium. Tendulkar, the standout performer in the squad, has inspired Indian talents to blossom and assured the foreign players that the leadership is in competent hands. Mumbai Indians is a vibrant unit and is sure of the way forward in the tumultuous terrain of T20 cricket.
As long as the captain is around to take decisions, the players have done their part roles with diligence, assured that the pieces will always fall into place.
Zaheer on the bowling front, batsmen Shikhar Dhawan, Saurabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu and all-rounder Harbhajan Singh have responded to changing match situations with alacrity by adjusting and adapting roles individually.
Foreign signings Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard and Ryan McLaren have produced breathtaking performances in keeping with their status as elite players while J-P. Duminy and Dwayne Bravo have not been far behind in executing the team management plans.
The must-win situation is another opportunity for an explosive all-rounder like Pollard to justify the high price paid to secure his services.
RCB is a worthy opponent; a terrific side packed with match-winners like Robin Uthappa, Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Manish Pandey, Virat Kohli, Jacques Kallis, Kevin Pietersen, Dale Steyn and Ross Taylor to name a few.
Captain Anil Kumble, who has always believed in setting a high benchmark, continues to compete with intensity. Rahul Dravid is a team man, respected for his ability to focus when the stakes are high.
RCB won the first time these two teams met this season. The Mumbai Indians batsmen were unsettled by the bouncer, as fast bowlers Kallis, Steyn and Vinay used the weapon effectively, while Praveen Kumar frustrated the batsmen with seam movement both ways.
As the wickets at the D.Y. Patil stadium are different and the ball comes on slower, coach Ray Jennings may have bigger roles for spinners S. Sriram and K.P. Appanna.
The Mumbai Indian players, Harbhajan in particular, would be looking forward to the semifinal.
The off-spinner's hard-hitting, unbeaten 49 (18 balls, 8x4, 2x6) and three for 31 had overpowered Deccan Chargers when Tendulkar had led his team out at the same venue the last time around.
The Orange Cap holder Tendulkar (561 runs in 13 innings) will return to action on Wednesday, refreshed and hungry for more runs. Kallis is his closest rival among run-getters (542 runs in 14 innings) but a recent dip in form could be a cause for worry in the RCB ranks. Both have the expertise and experience to deal with bowling attacks on their own terms.