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Yusuf Pathan helped Kolkata Knight Riders storm into the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 second spot with a whirlwind knock. His innings may have inadvertently inspired Mumbai Indians ahead of their crucial clash against the Rajasthan Royals, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
It was the kind of innings that could inspire any side facing a test the next day. While Yusuf Pathan’s blitz helped Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and crushed Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) at the end of grueling season, it may have inadvertently inspired the Mumbai Indians. The Rohit Sharma-led side face the Rajasthan Royals in a big game at the Wankhede Stadium. Not only do Mumbai have to win, but they have to either win by 42 runs or chase down the total in 14.3 overs, so that the net run-rates fall in place. A tough task but, as Pathan showed, it isn’t impossible.
If Mumbai do win the toss, they would be better off chasing. It is simply because winning a game by 42 runs won’t be easy and it is much safer to take on a score and chase it down in 14.3 overs. Considering the way they imploded while batting first against Delhi Daredevils, it is better if they bowl first. Planning a run-chase in such a situation is easier as the only option they have is to go out and attack the bowling. Kolkata timed it perfectly with a solid platform being laid and Pathan then taking over. He had the license to go all out, with nothing to lose and with such an approach, any side would feel the freedom to go for the kill.
Mumbai have the batsmen for the job if they are to chase the score. At the outset, someone like a Lendl Simmons can take the lead by smashing it around. Throughout the tournament, he has shown the ability to charge early and set the tone for the innings. Fresh from all those good scores, Simmons is a good bet for Mumbai to start their innings well and then charge later on. Plus, one mustn’t count Michael Hussey out of the equation. Though a conventional batsman, he can score quick runs and smash runs with a silken touch.
But, if you have to pick two men who are absolutely crucial for the job, they have to be Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard. Rohit, when on song and in touch, can clear any ground. He may not have the same power, but can time his strokes well. It is all about his mindset. The day he comes to the centre, prepared to take the assault, that is when he can charge at any bowling attack. He has always been a crucial player for the Mumbai Indians and the stage is set for him to unleash another aggressive knock to move forward.
Pollard is the trump card through all this. In every game, he has the licence to thrill and this time, it is more than a licence: It is the need of the hour. In 2013, Pollard played a crucial role in Mumbai’s triumph, none more crucial than his knock in the final. This time, it is a bit different as they have their task cut out. Pollard may well be promoted ahead up the order. For this clash, it is important for Mumbai to get their batting order right. Pollard and Rohit have to play central roles, even if they are setting a target.
Mumbai will take heart from their victory against Perth Scorchers last year during the Champions League T20 (CLT20). To qualify for the semi-final, they had to chase down the score in about 14 overs. Rohit rose to the occasion and smashed 51 off 24 balls and then Pollard also contributed with Rayudu adding a finishing touch. Keeping that in mind, Mumbai will back themselves if they have to chase. But, the bowlers have to do a good job of restricting the Rajasthan Royals.
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