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MI’s quest for elusive title starts

Shreedutta Chidananda
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RCB will look to Virat Kohli’s leadership for redemption

Terrific trio:Mumbai Indians will be banking on the combined experience of Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh to give it a winning start to the season.— Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash
Terrific trio:Mumbai Indians will be banking on the combined experience of Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh to give it a winning start to the season.— Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Some 14 years separate Ricky Ponting and Virat Kohli; a divide also of 150 Test matches, close to 300 one-dayers and the small matter of around 10,000 international runs. Whatever else may be said of the IPL, there isn’t another tournament that can throw up rival captains with numbers this contrasting on a platform this level.

When Mumbai Indians meets Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Thursday night, Ponting — a face we had all consigned to the past — will embark on his first IPL match after five years, leading out a couple of his greatest antagonists from an earlier time.

His appointment is from MI, one of the league’s biggest spenders, yet another throw of the dice in its quest for the IPL title — a prize that has eluded it for five seasons despite all those millions.

Kohli’s anointment, on the other hand, appears nothing more than natural, a progression that seemed evident all along.

Under him, RCB will hope, there is redemption for the two disappointing finals and the fifth place last season.

Foreign talents galore

As MI sets off on its sixth IPL campaign, Ponting commands an embarrassing number of overseas talents. Lasith Malinga will miss this game with a sore back, but there remain 10 players, excluding the skipper, competing for three spots.

But that should be no worry if the team’s local hands — led by Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, alongside the sorts of Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Pragyan Ojha — can be relied upon.

Also in the dug-out will be the reassuring figure of the chief mentor Anil Kumble, once on the other side and still with deep ties to the KSCA.

If in Malinga MI has the IPL’s most successful bowler, then bestriding RCB like the colossus he is (in every sense), is Chris Gayle, the competition’s outstanding batsman for two years now.

Their contest, had the Sri Lankan been available, would have made for engrossing viewing. With AB de Villiers on duty for Titans in South Africa, RCB’s reliance on Gayle will continue on Thursday.

The home side strengthened its pace-bowling group at the auction, buying up seven seamers, including R.P. Singh, Jaydev Unadkat and Ravi Rampaul. In the past, RCB’s bowling has been flaky at the death; Kohli will hope things will improve.

Although there were no showers on the eve of the game, the threat of rain on Thursday remains genuine.

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