S. Sabanayakan

KOLKATA: On the eve of the clash between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders in the DLF-Indian Premier League, the biggest question being asked here is whether Sachin Tendulkar will play his first match in this Twenty20 tournament or not.

Down 0-4 already in the 14-match, home and away tournament, Mumbai Indians has already been pushed into the cellar.

It is time to fire on all cylinders before it is too late. In this situation it is quite natural for Mumbai Indians to look up to Tendulkar to play the role of a saviour. “Sachin Tendulkar’s presence will be a major factor,” said Kolkata Knight Riders’ coach John Buchanan.

Worrying thought

After two contrasting victories, the nine-wicket defeat in the third match against Chennai Super Kings ought to have shaken up the host badly.

What should worry Knight Riders is the way its top order crumbled in the last game. The team was under pressure when Brendon McCullum perished early in the last two games.

If David Hussey rescued the team on a dicey pitch against Deccan Chargers, the first-ball dismissal of Ricky Ponting did not help the team at Chennai when it needed a big score from the Aussie.

It is the same story with Mumbai Indians. The failure of Sanath Jayasuriya and the top order has reflected on the team’s consecutive defeats. To bring stability at the top the visiting team will certainly need the inspiring presence of Tendulkar. It is the Little Master who has to make the call. Now that Harbhajan Singh has been banned, Mumbai Indians’ bowling options have been further eroded.

The positives

Shaun Pollock has been in the thick of action be it bowling or batting. It is indeed a good sign to see Dwayne Bravo among the runs. Abhishek Nayar has been a revelation in the lower order.

For both McCullum and Ponting, this game will be the last before they leave to play for their National teams. Umar Gul and Salman Butt, who joined the squad on the day of the Knight Riders’ departure for Chennai, should be available for selection.

The team management is not likely to risk playing West Indian Chris Gayle, recovering from a groin injury. Buchanan insisted that Ponting was unlucky to get out in the last match and he should be among the runs soon.

Knight Riders also announced the thirteen for the match in which Gul replaces Iqbal Abdullah, thanks to the greenish tinge the wicket sports.

Buchanan indicated that Gul would be preferred over his compatriot Mohammad Hafeez should the grass stay on the strip.

Pitch under scrutiny

It is anybody’s guess that anything less than 180 plus in 20 overs can be chased as has been witnessed thus far in the tournament. With the bat increasingly dominating the ball, the Eden Gardens pitch comes under close scrutiny.

After the pitch fiasco in the match against Deccan Chargers, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has promised to provide a better wicket conducive to play “good cricket.” Experts feel the strip will assist strokeplay.

The teams (from): Kolkata Knight Riders: Sourav Ganguly, Brendon McCullum, Ricky Ponting, David Hussey, Mohammad Hafeez, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Wriddhiman Saha, Murali Kartik, Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Ajit Agarkar, Debabrata Das and Umar Gul.

Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar, Shaun Pollock, Sanath Jayasuriya, Dwayne Bravo, Luke Ronchi, Abhishek Nayar, Aashish Nehra, Robin Uthappa, Sourabh Tiwary, Loots Bosman, Dhaval Kulkarni, Mussavir Khote, Ashwell Prince, Siddharth Chitnis and Ajinkya Rahane.

Match starts at 8 p.m.

DLF-IPL T20 - Latest Photos

More In: SPORT | Today's Paper