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By SS Ramaswamy
Mumbai: May 2, 2014
Title-holders Mumbai Indians would be keen to end their dismal five-match losing streak but the task is easier said than done as they will clash against table toppers Kings XI Punjab in an Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on May 3. The stadium was a mini fortress which could not be breached in eight attempts last year as Mumbai went all the way to clinch the title for the first time.
With the IPL action shifting to India after the initial phase was held in the UAE, Mumbai would be eager to turn around their floundering fortunes after suffering five straight defeats in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Kings XI Punjab, on the other hand, would be equally earnest to ensure that their five-match winning streak in the UAE is not snapped by last year’s champions.
Punjab have batted, bowled and fielded extremely well in the first phase of the T20 League and another victory at the cost of the struggling Mumbai would enhance their last four qualifying hopes which are already bright. It has been Mumbai’s batting, more than their bowling, which has caused their slump thus far in the tournament.
Mumbai have tried out a few opening combinations and failed miserably with captain Rohit Sharma, his Mumbai Ranji Trophy teammate Aditya Tare, former Australia cricketer Michael Hussey and new signing Ben Dunk, also an Aussie, all failing to get going.
The middle-order too has performed dismally barring the last game against Sunrisers Hyderabad at Dubai when Kieron Pollard at last found form with a blistering knock of 78 off only 48 deliveries with six sixes and three fours. But the powerfully built West Indian all-rounder’s stupendous effort went in vain as Mumbai slumped to a 15-run defeat chasing Hyderabad’s challenging score of 172.
For Mumbai to get their floundering campaign on track, all of the top-order batsmen need to find form quickly. While Mumbai’s batting has been a big let-down, the bowlers have fared only slightly better with Sri Lanka’s ICC World T20 2014 winning captain Lasith Malinga (eight wickets), Zaheer Khan (eight wickets) and former captain Harbhajan Singh (two wickets with economical bowling) being the pick of the lot.
New Zealand’s all-rounder Corey Anderson has performed miserably with both bat and ball while spinner Pragyan Ojha has also been disappointing but will be happy to bowl on the Wankhede wicket that normally assists both spin and pace. The trouble with Mumbai is their bench strength is not great and they would be hoping that new inclusion Lendl Simmons of the West Indies justifies his signing.
Punjab, on the other hand, are sitting pretty as the only unbeaten team in the league in the UAE leg. For this top perch, they are indebted to Australian Glen Maxwell who has struck two brilliant 95s and another 89 to lead their batting might. Maxwell (300 runs from five matches) and David Miller (155 runs) helped Punjab get a flying start in their opening two games against former two-time champions Chennai Super Kings and 2008 winners Rajasthan Royals.
When they failed later, Virender Sehwag has chipped in with two 30-plus scores in low-scoring games. Captain George Bailey, also a fine T20 batsman, has not been required to do much. They have, in short, a top-drawer batting-order. Australian pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson and Sandeep Sharma have opened the bowling well and have got good support from the experienced Lakshmipathy Balaji and Rishi Dhawan.
But the spin department appears a bit stretched with young left-arm spinner Akshar Patel impressing with his wicket taking (six wickets) ability and economy, though, former India bowler Murali Karthik, who has been benched in four games, has more experience.
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