Mitchell Johnson will crucial for Punjab’s hopes © Getty Images


As Mumbai crowd gear up for the final Indian Premier League (IPL), 2014 Qualifier 2 at Wankhede Stadium, the match will see the return of Mitchell Johnson and Dwayne Smith at their former home ground. Sudatta Mukherjee states why Johnson and Smith’s presence in their respective side will be crucial at Wankhede Stadium.


When Mumbai Indians (MI) released Mitchell Johnson from their squad in January, a lot of fans were disappointed with the move. After his run-through in the Ashes 2013-14 and Test series on South African soil, Johnson’s exclusion was not taken lightly by Mumbai fans. In the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 auction, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) management went ahead and bought the Australian pacer.


Three months forward, MI couldn’t manage to proceed to the Qualifier 2 as they were steamrollered in the Eliminator by Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Punjab, who themselves lost to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the IPL 7 Qualifier 1, will face dominant Chennai at the Wankhede Stadium. While Chennai’s batting were in cracking form in the Eliminator, Johnson’s form will be douubly crucial for Punjab.


The left-arm pacer has a tremendous record at Wankhede Stadium. Johnson has played nine matches and has taken 15 wickets. Those figures came at an average of 18.73 at the ground and an economy rate of 8.02.


On May 5, 2013, Johnson had recorded his best bowling figures in IPL, against his next opponents Chennai. Mumbai won the toss and elected to bat and could only muster 139 in their 20 overs as Ravindra Jadeja restricted the home side by taking three wickets. Mumbai had to do something exceptional to run through Chennai’s formidable batting order.


Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma then unleashed Johnson on a wicket that favours spinners for the most part. In one over, Johnson removed Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina and Subramanium Bradinath. He completed his four over with figures 3-0-27-3 and overtook his previous best of three for 33. Pragyan Ojha supported the pacer with another three-wicket haul to lead Mumbai to a comprehensive 6—run win and the Australian was subsequently awarded the Man of the Match. Johnson has recorded a three-wicket haul twice at the ground and with his experience at the ground, it will be important that his skipper George Bailey utilises him totally.


Like Johnson,the big-hitting Dwayne Smith also comes back to his former hone ground.. Smith has been in good form and has been the most successful batsmen for Chennai. In 15 IPL 7 matches for CSK, he has already scored more than 550 runs for CSK and has an average of 37.26 and a strike-rate of 138.02. Smith has played 10 matches at Wankhede Stadium and has scored 276 runs at an average of 30.66.


In his last two matches for Mumbai at Wankhede, he has scored 21 and 47. In his last match atthe stadium, he had scored a match-winning 57 from 51 balls for Chennai and was adjudged the Man of the Match.


In the end, it will be interesting to see among these two players, who makes Mumbai crowds dance — Johnson’s pace and bounce or Smith’s powerful hitting.


(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)