Odds Favour Royal Challengers Bangalore against Mumbai Indians

By Anand Philar

Chennai, May 26 (IANS) The Mumbai Indians need to look back to draw inspiration as they gird up for a clash with Royal Challengers Bangalore here Friday to earn the right to challenge Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League final.

Having won eight of their first 10 games, Mumbai Indians were flying high, but were brought down to earth with a string of mediocre performances that belied all expectations as they eventually scrambled to the third spot at the conclusion of the league phase.

Sachin Tendulkar's Mumbai side was an inspired unit at the start of the competition as they put together a sequence of magical displays, but the Indian summer heat seemed to have dried up the early enthusiasm that had marked them out as the side to beat.

Instead, Mumbai resembles a team that is creaking and groaning under the weight of expectations with the performance graph of their celebrated foreign stars such as "slinger" Lasit Malinga, Kieron Pollard and Andrew Symonds dipping dramatically in the latter half of the 14-match league phase.

In fact, twice Mumbai failed to score even 100 runs, with 94 for eight against Rajasthan Royals and 87 all out at Mohali versus the Kings XI Punjab. Added to that is the suspect middle-order where the likes of Ambatti Rayudu and Rohit Sharma have not sustained their early form despite the odd bright innings.

Presently, Mumbai appear unsure and unsettled with frequent shuffling of their batting and bowling order. Tendulkar, despite being one of the leading run-getters in the current IPL, has not stayed long enough to guide his team at the death.

A series of 30s in the recent outings have not made much of an impact and Tendulkar needs to play a longer innings if Mumbai hope to win their maiden IPL trophy.

In contrast, the Royal Challengers appear far better placed and their loss to the Super Kings in Qualifier-1 notwithstanding, look capable of going all the way or at least, they have the potential to achieve their maiden IPL trophy success.

Bangalore's seven-match winning sequence since the arrival of Chris Gayle took them to the top of the table and gave them an aura of invincibility until they ran into Adam Gilchrist in their penultimate league game and then Suresh Raina in the Mumbai qualifier.

In both these games, Gayle, currently the leading run-getter in IPL-4, flopped (0 and 7), and predictably, the Challengers slid to defeats to highlight the importance of the Jamaican opener, although skipper Daniel Vettori has been at pains to play down the theory that his team is all about one batsman coming good.

In fact, the Challengers have been largely dependent on their bowling attack led by veteran Zaheer Khan and youngster Sreenath Aravind, besides Vettori himself. Gayle, too, has shown that he can go through his four overs of off-break conceding very little.

But for the Challengers to progress, they need to strengthen their batting where Virat Kohli, the only player Bangalore retained after the team was disbanded last year, has been outstanding, besides Gayle of course.

The departure of Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan earlier this month to join his national team on a tour of England, has obviously hurt the Challengers as also the continuing poor form of AB de Villiers.

The only time the two teams met in the current IPL was early last month in Bangalore where Mumbai made light of a modest target of 141 to win by nine wickets with Tendulkar (55 not out) and Rayudu (63 not out) leading the charge. That was during the pre-Gayle period and much has happened since then with the Royal Challengers emerging stronger and more vibrant than the Mumbai Indians.

Thus, everything points to another clash between the southern titans, Royal Challengers and the Chennai Super Kings in Saturday's final.


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Title: Odds Favour Royal Challengers Bangalore against Mumbai Indians

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