It has been a week of ‘return-leg’ blues in the world of sport. The tables were turned on the Spanish teams at home in the Champions League and a similar trend has been seen in the IPL too!
Team Delhi reversed the result against Sourav Ganguly’s Pune earlier this week while Mumbai returned the favour to Punjab at Mohali on Wednesday. All this points to the fact that home advantage means zilch in T20 cricket.
Now it’s the turn of Mumbai to turn up in Delhi for their ‘return-leg’ against Virender Sehwag’s outfit. For the visiting side, it’ll be a matter of putting balm over a badly bruised ego after the mauling they suffered at the hands of Delhi at the Wankhede.
Delhi and Mumbai have a longstanding rivalry in domestic cricket. For fans of both cities, winning against each other is a matter of pride. In a scenario like this, for Mumbai to be rolled over for a mere 92 in front of their home crowd must have been really embarrassing.
“The guys will be really motivated going into this match. The batsmen, especially, were really disappointed for getting bowled out so cheaply. We’ll be looking to put the record straight,” Mumbai team mentor Shaun Pollock said on Thursday.
Last year’s finalists have been languishing at the bottom of the table, just managing to stay above Punjab thanks to the flashing blades off Ambati Rayudu and Robin Peterson. Their bowling, though, still looks as disjointed as the captaincy of Harbhajan Singh.
“A captain has got his bowlers and it’s up to him to decide when he wants them to bowl. Twice he asked Robbie (Peterson) to bowl and couldn’t bring him on because something happened,” Pollock said.
“Wins like the one over Punjab help with the momentum and self-belief of a team. The people we had at the wicket, we always knew it was possible to chase down 32 in two overs,” he added.
Bhajji might have led Mumbai to the Champions League T20 title last year, but his captaincy skills have left a lot to be desired. The Punjab off-spinner, in his eagerness to rotate bowlers, has failed to identify his strike bowlers. The fact that his ‘go-to’ man Lasith Malinga has been laid low by injury is not helping matters.
Delhi, on the other hand, are sitting pretty at the top of the table. Barring a few aberrations, like those against Pune in their last home match, their pace-heavy attack has done the job.
Morne Morkel (16 wickets) has been the leader while Irfan Pathan has been equally impressive. Irfan might not be among wickets but with his variations the left-armer has been hard to get away. Left-arm tweaker Shahbaz Nadeem (six wickets at 24.83) has ensured that spin bowling department is in safe hands.
Where Delhi take the cake is in the batting department. Sehwag has found form at the right time and Kevin Pietersen has taken a special liking to the Ferozeshah Kotla. If Mumbai manage to get past these two, they have to deal with Mahela Jayawardene and Ross Taylor – both of whom are yet to fire in IPL 5.
The hosts must be buoyed by the fact that the side has already won five matches without major contributions from these two top guns. But upsets in ‘home’ games have become commonplace this year and Delhi will be wary of this fact.