While Sachin Tendulkar’s 39th birthday became the dominant theme of the day, there was that small matter of Punjab taking on Mumbai in a return leg match of IPL 5 at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali on Wednesday.
Punjab, having beaten Mumbai by six wickets at the Wankhede recently, look a buoyant side but know well what it means to take a side like Mumbai lightly. They would not want to forget the past record – out of nine encounters between the two, Mumbai have won six and lost just three. But they would also not want to dwell too much on that.
Playing at home, Punjab clearly hold the edge. Mumbai, once the top-rung team, are now wallowing in the seventh spot, though still one step above Punjab on the ladder.
Tendulkar’s men have quite a few things to fix, especially in their batting. The top order looks unsettled and the middle is a bit wobbly. They need to work harder on their fielding too.
Though Harbhajan Singh has not been among wickets and Rohit Sharma has faltered with his aggression, coach Shaun Pollock expressed faith in them and said, “Harbhajan is a proven performer. Rohit is an aggressive player and plays his shots no matter what. Both are good in the T-20 format and I hope both will bounce back soon.”
Pollock admitted that there was a problem with the top-order. “It is important for any team to get the top four players scoring for them. I hope our players do well tomorrow here,” he said.
Punjab may have things finally going for them now but they have a huge task of keeping things intact. Their bowling still needs a lot of improvement.
Another debacle like one against Pune will peg them back even as the tournament moves towards the midway stage. The difference in points between the top team and Punjab is not huge (four points) but from here, every point is crucial.
Punjab skipper Adam Gilchrist said, “We are playing this match after a big win and feel confident about ourselves. But every game is a new game and we all know Mumbai is a very dangerous side. They have some very good players and can bounce back. We will try to play good cricket and keep the momentum going.”