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Shirin Sadikot in Bengaluru 03 April 2013 - 09:11pm IST

Malinga out of first match due to sore back

MI captain glad to have quality replacements for the Lankan slinger

The Mumbai Indians have been dealt a mighty blow ahead of their first game in IPL 2013, against the Royal Challengers Bangalore with their bowling spearhead, Lasith Malinga being unavailable.

Mumbai Indians skipper, Ricky Ponting, confirmed on the eve of the match that the Sri Lankan slinger will join the squad in India ahead of their second tie, due to a sore back.

“Lasith is going to miss out tomorrow night,” Ponting told the gathered media. “He has a sore back and the problem is just lingering around for a while. So, we’ve decided to keep him back in Sri Lanka until April 5.

“It’s disappointing not to have him in the first game. It would’ve have been nice to have the leading T20 fast bowler in the world but that’s not the case. We wish him a speedy recovery and hopefully he’ll be okay for the next game,” said the former Australian captain.

Ponting, however, was confident of the other overseas options at his disposal to replace MI’s highest wicket-taker in the IPL. “Among overseas players we’ve got guys like Jacob Oram, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Johnson, who can all replace Malinga if required,” he said.

Ponting was also glad to finally see his entire squad together after the arrival of the missing big Indian players and the foreign recruits.

“Most of the international players have arrived over the last few days and we’ve enjoyed our time here in Bangalore already. The practice session shaped up well and we hope the weather remains good tomorrow,” Ponting said, referring to the intermittent showers experienced in Bangalore over the last few days.

Returning to play in the IPL after his stint in the first season, Ponting admitted that bringing players of multiple nationalities and background together in a dressing room for a two-month tournament is one of the biggest challenges faced by the IPL captains.

However, he believes that the presence of reputed senior players in the MI camp will make his task easier. “It is a challenge because you don’t get your squad of players together until just before the start of the first game.

“That’s the most difficult part of tournaments like this and that’s where you have to rely on the senior players in your team to bring everyone together as soon as possible.

“As far as senior players go, the MI squad is going to stack up as well as any other team. We have trained well and have had some very good meetings to set out the way we want to play and the way we want to be looked upon as a team.  I’m pretty confident that the boys will come together really well,” the skipper said.

MI’s new captain also acknowledged MI’s troubles finding a settled pair of opening batsmen in the last two seasons. He attributed it to the team’s inconsistent performance on the whole. He claimed the best solution to this is to win matches and stick to the winning combination.

“I understand that over the last couple of seasons the Mumbai Indians have swapped, changed and have had different combinations at the top of the order. Guys have come in and out of the side quite regularly and that tends to happen when you’re not winning games.

“We’ll try to get off to a good start, try and keep a settled group of players together through the tournament. We’ll wait and see who opens with Sachin tomorrow and there are a few of them who can do that depending on the conditions,” he said.

The Mumbai Indians have been one of the strongest teams in the league but the title has eluded them. Ponting refused to read into the past and insisted on taking it one step at a time in the 2013 season.

“There are a few teams who haven’t yet won the IPL and they all have a fantastic set of players,” he said. “Right now we’re not thinking about winning the IPL. All we can do is try to win Thursday’s game. If we can keep our squad of players fit and healthy for the whole two months, I’m sure that at the end of the tournament Mumbai Indians will be right up there,” Ponting concluded.

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