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Keen to retain their pole position on the points table of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013, the Mumbai Indians will come out all guns blazing at the HPCA Stadium against the Kings XI Punjab on Saturday afternoon.
Having dominated the league phase of the tournament, the Mumbai Indians are keen to carry the momentum into the Playoffs. While addressing the media team mentor Anil Kumble said, “We would like to keep our leadership position. At the moment we are on top of the table and that is where we would like to finish at the end of the league stage, so it is extremely important to finish at No. 1 if not 2. That is something about which we are very aware and we would like to keep that going as well on Saturday.”
Having dominated the league phase and qualified for the Playoffs the team will be looking to give other players a chance to take the field but will not tamper with the existing combination too much. They would like to carry the momentum forward and are also keeping an eye out for the conditions that await them at the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi. Kumble explained, “We are looking at that (giving players who have not played many games a chance), but we don’t want to unnecessarily tamper with the combination but at the same time we will certainly give a few of them a chance to look at as we need to look at the conditions in Delhi (Playoff) as well.”
Asked about the visitors’ team combination on a pitch known to suit medium-pacers and their seam combination, the former India captain, said, “Yes, the general strategy here (on this ground) has been going with fast bowlers. We will certainly consider that and look at what we need to do. And probably by the end of day, we will know where we stand in terms of our position (in terms of the points table). It is important that we win on Saturday. And since we have already qualified for Delhi (for the Playoffs) we need to look at those options as well. So we will take a call as to what we need to do. Yes it is a pitch which possibly demands leaning towards medium-pace, that’s something which we will certainly keep in mind when we pick the team.”
Besides the wicket here, the conditions too will be taken into consideration while picking the team. They are likely to differ from a 4pm game to an 8pm game. Elaborating on the aspect, Kumble said, “Conditions are slightly different from a 4pm game to a 8pm game. I think especially this kind of a place where generally the temperatures drop late in the evenings. Maybe in a 4pm game the pitch would certainly behave differently from the one which played on Friday, so we will keep all that in mind. At l,east here, at 4pm, the temperatures are better than where we have played elsewhere – be it Mumbai or Hyderabad, so it is certainly cricket friendly.”
Speaking about batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar’s availability for the match, Kumble said, “Sachin is recovering. We are hoping that he will be okay for tomorrow. But it is tough, it has been only three days now. Although it has been only three days, we have already played only one game , and the second game is coming up. So matches keep coming very quickly and it is important that he gets hundred percent (fit) so maybe not Saturday, we might not look at Sachin tomorrow.”
Speaking about the opposition and the significance of the game, the MI team mentor said, “Every match is important for us. We would certainly like to maintain our leadership position on the table. We want to take the momentum going into the playoffs so that’s something we are very particular about. At the same time, we know the capabilities of Kings XI Punjab. They are a very good side and especially in these conditions it’s not going to be easy for us. But we don’t take any team lightly. It is a very important game like I said, it is important that we carry the momentum. Saturday’s match is in that sense very important for us.”
The legendary leg-spinner also highlighted former Australia captain Ricky Ponting’s vital contribution to the team. He said, “It shows his caliber as a professional cricketer and his stature in the international scene. I mean, it has never been easy for somebody of his stature to step down and he has been really gracious enough to do that because of the team dynamics. He has been extremely interactive with the players, his experience, his depth of knowledge and helping out the Indian players and also talking to the fast bowlers, especially someone like Mitchell Johnson who he has captained in the Australian team. So his inputs, off the field has been really good and that’s something that has helped the team as well. His role outside of the field has certainly helped us and his enthusiasm is there for all to see. Sitting in the dug-out, he doesn’t just sit there. He does the 12th man duties and also slightly support staff duties as well. So he is doing everything and of course all of us have a common goal and that’s something which all of us are gearing up to. It is really nice to have someone of Ricky’s stature and experience in the change room.”
Speaking about Rohit Sharma’s leadership, Kumble showered high praise on the MI youngster and while concurring with Coach John Wright said, “This is probably the first instance where Rohit was given the captaincy role and he certainly responded really well. He is pretty calm on the field and he is pretty smart in taking those decisions and in every game. He has grown and responsibility has helped his batting as well. His nature itself is pretty cool and he is not someone who reacts to rather than thinking and takes those decisions.
It’s nice to have someone of Rohit’s capabilities. He is young and it is nice to see him in this role and I am glad he has taken it really well and it has not affected his particular batting abilities. It has only enhanced him as a person and as a captain so it is really nice that we have someone like Rohit in the squad who can take this forward. I think it will only help him. Help him going forward not just as captain of Mumbai Indians but for him in future in the Indian cricket as well. It will help him grow as a person and as a leader so I am really glad that he has accepted responsibility and is doing a great job so far.”
“It is something which has probably had a positive impact on him as a batsman and also as a leader. He has played with Mumbai Indians for a while and especially the Indian boys, all of them are his age. It’s nice to have someone as a young leader in the set-up and Rohit has certainly responded.”
Asked if HP player Rishi Dhawan is likely to feature in the game on May 18, he said, “He is certainly in the mix. Rishi has been really good with us so far. He has played a couple of games. He did really well and he played in Mumbai and after that we had to make a few changes based on the team dynamics. He certainly is in the mix and hopefully if he gets a game, it will be great to have someone from Himachal play on his home ground.”
Asked if the table-toppers have a problem of plenty of ideas in the dressing room given the MI team’s star-studded line-up and their star-studded support staff he said, “No not really. At the end of it, it is always good to have ideas but you also need people to execute it on the field and I am really glad that whatever ideas we have been throwing open, the execution has been good. We only want that to continue. It is not a question of just throwing ideas because we have a star studded support staff but at the same time it is also important to assimilate all those ideas and make it simple and that’s the tough part. So that is where the star studded support staff will help.”
Ahead of RCB’s last home game of the season, against Chennai Super Kings, their highest wicket-taker,Vinay Kumar, admitted that death bowling has been a let-down for the team in the last few matches.
“We did really well as a bowling unit in the first few games. We have defended nine and seven runs in the last over in this tournament. In the last few games that hasn’t been the case and we have been giving away runs in the death overs,” Vinay said, adding, it is not an issue that only RCB are confronting at this stage of the tournament.
“But that’s happening with every team – the bowlers did well in the first half of the tournament and now the batsmen are doing well. Sometimes, the dew factor also plays a part as the ball tends to slip a bit. In this format, even an inch’s difference can result in you being hit for a six.”
Their contest against CSK is a perform-or-perish scenario for RCB. A loss will virtually end their chances of making it to the Playoffs. Vinay said the best way to get the best out of themselves is for the team to not get overly desperate.
“The pressure is there from game-one. The IPL is such tournament that if you want to win the title, you have to take every game as a crucial game. If we keep thinking about this game as a must-win game, we will only make things tough for ourselves mentally,” he said.