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Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson face-off against their former side Mumbai Indians. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks forward to the impending contest.
When Mumbai Indians (MI) announced their retentions ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014, many expected Mitchell Johnson to make the cut. After all, the left-arm speedster was menacing during the Ashes Down Under and had terrorised batsmen with his sheer pace. In fact, he was an important cog in the Mumbai machinery during their twin triumphs (IPL and Champions League) in 2013. Anybody would have retained such a player. But, not at the cost of Lasith Malinga and Kieron Pollard, who have been around the Mumbai setup since their IPL debuts. Letting them go was an even bigger decision; a gamble perhaps.
Glenn Maxwell is the bigger miss given his thunderous form this season. Last year, Mumbai had picked him for a million dollars noticing his potential. However, he had to warm the bench for a major part of the tournament and couldn’t showcase his talent. This year, he has shown what he is truly capable of and a good performance against Mumbai would be like rubbing insult to injury.
Mumbai did have the option of taking a brave gamble and retaining Johnson ahead of a Malinga. Retaining Maxwell would have seemed far-fetched then, but they did have the option of getting him back with the Right to Match card. Picking him for a million dollars itself was surprising and it could have been an inspired move this year to unleash that card. But, Mumbai’s auction strategy didn’t seem sound and their squad looks weak as a result. Someone like a Maxwell may have added punch and inspired a reversal of fortunes.
It is often that one innings or a moment that can inspire a turnaround. While Punjab do look a good side, a lot of the credit has to go to Maxwell as he set the tone this year with those brilliant displays. When a team chases down two big totals in succession, it suddenly adds belief. That belief would also end up inspiring the bowling attack, which then rose to the occasion in later matches. Having conceded over 190 in their first two games, Punjab’s bowling has been brilliant since then.
Johnson hasn’t been the force one expected him to be, but is nevertheless effective. He isn’t single-handedly leading the bowling attack as the likes of Sandeep Sharma and Lakshmipathy Balaji have risen to the occasion and taken the pressure off him. But, if Johnson’s performances are anything to go by, he is gradually getting back to his top rhythm. The Wankhede surface could help him as it has traditionally had that tennis ball bounce.
For Mumbai, it could be an uncomfortable face-off on Saturday when they come across their former recruits. Although they are well set in their own sides, Maxwell and Johnson may just want to prove the point. With all their experience in Mumbai last year, they would know the conditions well and may be in a fantastic position to put in a good performance. Mumbai would only hope that this Aussie duo doesn’t strike them.
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