Kieron Pollard hasn't featured in a competitive game since the IPL but has shown the ability to hang in there and play a finishing role. It was this quality that was missing in many players against Chennai Super Kings © Getty Images


By Nishad Pai Vaidya


Mumbai Indians stormed to a thrilling victory over the Chennai Super Kings and have put a strong display to momentarily silence their critics. The match was a nerve-wracking contest which just underlined the unpredictable nature of T20 cricket.


Chennai maintained a stranglehold over the proceedings for majority of the game at their fortress-Chepauk until Lasith Malinga decided to cut loose. In the end, Chennai lost to a maverick batting performance by a player who generally excels in the bowling department.


Chennai did at least 90% of their job right. But the mediocre 10% is what cost them the game. Most of their mistakes came in the death overs of Mumbai batting when they could ill-afford lapses. Mahendra Singh Dhoni missed a straightforward stumping chance which would have dismissed the chief destructor Malinga. Bowlers like Albie Morkel and Shadab Jakati bowled too many balls in the slot for Malinga to make merry. Chennai lost the plot at the finish.


Mumbai Indians will celebrate their great escape. They came into the game without heavyweights like Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma and Munaf Patel. Victory in the absence of key players would be energising, but they have to be aware of the fact that they weren’t at their best for the major part of the game.


Mumbai’s batting is their biggest concern. The openers gave them a good start, but couldn’t carry on their good work. Davy Jacobs played a few good shots, but seemed in a hurry against the off-spin of Ravichandran Ashwin. Had he shown patience, he could have contributed a lot more. He is a destructive player, but the more he stays in the middle the more damage he can do. Blizzard’s performance can be rated as a positive as he looked in good touch and was middling the ball. It was just one that went straight though that got the better of him.


The Mumbai openers need to contribute a lot more as they are missing Tendulkar. One of them should aim to bat as long as possible and not take too many risks and the other should play the attacking role. They need to strike a balance between attack and stability.


The middle-order didn’t contribute much during their stay in the middle. Tirumalasetti Suman, Ambati Rayudu and Andrew Symonds fell to attacking strokes very early in their innings. Suman walked in at one-drop – a position Rayudu made his own for majority of the 2011 Indian Premier League (IPL). It may not be a bad idea to send Rayudu at No 3 and hold Suman back. Rayudu has done well at that position on a number of occasions.


Symonds inclusion in the eleven was a big surprise. He played IPL 2011 with minimal match practice and looked rusty throughout that tournament. He comes into the CLT20 with a similar background as his last competitive game was during the IPL 2011. It looks as if he was included on the basis of his “potential” destructiveness. But it is a safer bet to select James Franklin who played some crucial cameos at the end of IPL 2011. Like Symonds, Franklin hasn’t featured in a competitive game since the IPL but has shown the ability to hang in there and play a finishing role. It was this quality that was missing against Chennai Super Kings.


Kieron Pollard perished just when he raised hope of a blast. Mumbai should look at him as a possible floater as he can do some real damage with time in the middle. It may not be a bad idea to promote him as it would give him time to adjust to the conditions and plan his attack accordingly. There were times in the past IPLs when Mumbai have wasted him down the order when he could have made a difference a little higher in the order. They need to be flexible with Pollard’s position because a player of his ability is indispensable in the T20 format.


Harbhajan Singh stint at the helm has started with a bang at the CLT20. He would be a happy man as his team heads to Bangalore for their next encounter against the dangerous Trinidad and Tobago. It promises to be an interesting contest as the two teams have displayed trends of securing victory from the jaws of defeat. However, Trinidad find themselves against their talisman of 2009, Kieron Pollard who is lined up in the Mumbai ranks.


The first two days of the main round of the CLT20 have thrilled audiences. The last over finishes will help generate more interest mainly because the Indian sides were involved in those games. Cricket lovers would hope that the tournament lives up to its start and that they are treated to many more riveting matches!!


The CLT20 2011 has well and truly come alive!!


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.)