By SS Ramaswamy
Mumbai: Apr 10, 2012
Hosts Mumbai Indians need to address their batting concerns as they take on Rajasthan Royals, who are at the top spot in IPL 2012 points table, in their Twenty20 cricket match at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.
Mumbai have struggled in chasing small totals in their last two matches and had Rohit Sharma not played a heroic 50-ball 73, they could have lost Monday night's match against Deccan Chargers.
The Harbhajan Singh-led side, without the calming influence of the injured Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the order, once again seemed to be floundering while chasing a none-too-difficult target of 139 before the under-performing Rohit did the last-over magic when the side needed 18 runs.
Rohit's whirlwind unbeaten knock and good support from West Indian Kieron Pollard saved the day for MI after their bowlers had done a commendable job in restricting their rivals to a manageable total.
The bowlers, led from the front by Harbhajan Singh, have delivered in all three matches they have played and it's time for the openers to give the side a good start in the absence of Tendulkar whose finger injury is yet to heal completely.
The senior batsman is uncertain to play Wednesday's game and in his absence MI have tried out Hyderabad-born Ambati Rayudu and T Suman as partners to South African Richard Levi without much success.
Levi, who cracked a half-century and won the MoM award in the opener against CSK, too has flopped in the last two games and Mumbai would be anxious to get the opening combination right for the game against the Royals.
The bowlers have delivered in brilliant style for Mumbai with Munaf Patel in particularly good form in the last two games he has played grabbing 2 for 26 against Pune Warriors and then a stunning 4 for 20 against Deccan Chargers.
Lasith Malinga has always been a threat for the rival batsmen and was well used by Harbhajan against Chargers.
A battle within the battle could be the one-on-one contest between Trinidadian all-rounders Pollard and Kevon Copper, who has hit the ground running for the Royals in his inaugural competition with the variations in his medium paced bowling.
Royals have another advantage in the sense that they have Ajinkya Rahane and Ankit Chavan, who play for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and consider Wankhede as their home ground.
Rahane started the tournament with a blitz against Kings XI Punjab when he made a blistering 66-ball 98 with 16 fours and a six.
He as well as Royals' captain and opening partner Rahul Dravid were both run out in the second game against Kolkata Knight Riders on April 8 and the duo would be eager not to repeat the mistakes they had made.
It is Royals' first away game in IPL-5 and they had won both their home matches on the strength of their batting.
Against Mumbai, their bowling attack will definitely be tested.
Royals have a good middle-order in the form of Rajasthan Ranji Trophy batsman and former India under-19 player, Ashok Meneria, and the experienced Australian Brad Hodge.
Both Meneria and Hodge played important innings of 40 and 44 respectively, after the early fall of the two openers, and along with wicket-keeper batsman Shreevats Goswami provided the team with a defendable total of 164 against the strong KKR batting line-up.
Left-arm slow Chavan, off spinner Johan Botha, Cooper, bowling alongside medium pacers Amit Singh and Sidharth Triverdi, then applied the brakes on the rival batsman to help the Royals earn a creditable win.
It showed they have the bowling strength to stop top batsmen from running away though the Mumbai attack seems to hold an edge.
With both teams level on points (4), though Royals have a much better net run rate, a victory for either side would take them to the top of the nine-team league table. (PTI)