Indian Premier League champions Mumbai Indians are in familiar territory. The 2011 Champions League Twenty20 winners had bowed out of the last edition in South Africa after starting off with a defeat and then having the second match abandoned, followed by a loss to eventual champions Sydney Sixers.
This time around though, the pressure to stay afloat is equal on both MI and Highveld Lions as they face off in a must win Group A match at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium (SMS) on Friday. In South Africa, the Lions had sabotaged MI by eight-wickets, with Neil McKenzie and Quinton de Kock making quickfire half-centuries.
Interestingly, both teams — on two points each — are coming off defeats to Rajasthan Royals on the fairly grassy surface in their den, apart from the washed out games in Ahmedabad. And both teams have claimed familiarity to the conditions in Jaipur to be favourable to them, with former RR left-armer, Sohail Tanvir, pointing out that the pace and bounce of SMS was more likely to have Rohit Sharma’s men in difficulty rather than the South African champions.
The MI skipper, who appeared in good touch while scoring a 37-ball 44 in the seven-wicket defeat to RR last Saturday, countered it by saying that they were playing in India, not South Africa.
“We are more accustomed to such pitches. In Mumbai too we have bouncy wickets which assist bowlers like the Jaipur wicket. We are used to playing on such wickets,” Rohit shot back on Thursday, after a welcome training session for his team, coming as it was after three rain-hit days in Ahmedabad.
Sounding optimistic, Sharma said their show against RR was not too shoddy and that they had the team to bounce back. “We have the players and I don’t think our performance against Rajasthan Royals was bad. Had we made 15-20 more (runs), the story of that match could have been different,” he said.
The star-studded outfit would require the top five, consisting of Sachin Tendulkar, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu and the captain himself, to lay a solid foundation for the West Indian marauder Kieron Pollard to do what he does best — take the opposition attack to the cleaners. The Lions top order — where de Kock and captain Alviro Petersen have important roles to play — too had failed to shine against RR, with the absence of the injured Neil McKenzie showing through, as the others struggled against the spin of Pravin Tambe.
For Mumbai, the bowling attack too needs to buckle up, as only Mitchell Johnson managed to trouble the RR batsmen. If Tambe’s success in any indication, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha better step out of the right side of their beds.