MUMBAI: Kings XI Punjab, with their Indian Premier League campaign in total disarray, are to take on high-flying Mumbai Indians in their seventh match at the Brabourne Stadium on Tuesday.
The Punjab outfit, which has managed to win only one match out of six and that too via a tie-break against another struggling side – Chennai Super Kings – would be without regular captain Kumar Sangakkara against the marauding Mumbai team spearheaded by master batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
Sangakkara is to miss the match after copping a one-match ban for the team’s inability to maintain required over-rate for the third time and it could not have come at a worse time for the Mohali franchise.
The team, even with match-winners like Sri Lanka captain Sangakkara, his compatriot Mahela Jayawardene and India stalwart Yuvraj Singh, has come a cropper repeatedly in the IPL 3.
In absence of Sangakkara, who had done precious little in the tournament, the team is to be led by another former Lanka skipper – Jayawardene – and they would be hoping that a change at the helm would also bring about change in their fortunes.
Already their chances of making the semifinals appear remote and a sixth defeat tomorrow would dent their hopes further.
Failure of Sangakkara and Jayawardene to do something meaningful and the flop show of Yuvraj has meant the team had to depend mostly on the starts provided by England player Ravi Bopara and the finish by Irfan Pathan to a large extent.
These two players have been the pick of the Kings XI team.
The return of Brett Lee to lead the attack would be one bright spot in an otherwise dismal scenario as S Sreesanth has tended to blow hot and cold while Pathan and Salabh Srivastava can play only support roles.
The Mumbai team, on the other hand, are on a roll with Tendulkar in supreme touch, with four half-centuries to his credit and the others giving him good support.
Mumbai’s only loss thus far has come against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Last night their winning run was in danger of being stopped by defending champions Deccan Chargers before Harbhajan Singh produced a blinder of an innings to make 49 not out off 18 balls and piloted the team to a good score.
Tendulkar has been given good support by youngsters in the team like Saurabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu. The duo, however, failed at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai Monday night and would need to get their act together.
Lasith Malinga has been the pick of the pace attack while Zaheer Khan has bowled well overall barring the odd occasion while Harbhajan has been too good in the middle.
Mumbai are hoping their West Indian recruits Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard justify the high hopes the team management has on them. The duo has come up with decent efforts, but not match-winning displays thus far.
The home advantage has also worked well for the team who got solid support from the crowd in Navi Mumbai though it was Deccan’s home match.
Mumbai have not travelled outside the state in the initial stages barring the match against the Delhi Daredevils and have one more match scheduled at home, the return home tie against the Chargers at the Brabourne on April 3.
This has been a huge plus for Tendulkar and his men in the opening part of the tournament.
Harbhajan stated after the match that Mumbai wanted to become the first team to book a berth in the semifinals and if they continue to play the way they have done so far they would be hard to stop, least of all by a struggling Punjab.(PTI)