Fire a question at Team Mumbai coach Robin Singh from any line or length, he’ll offer a bat so straight you won’t stand a chance beating him. Off the field, in the worst of times, he’s their best bet. No wonder then, in times of distress – which is exactly Mumbai’s situation right now – the team management sent its best batsman to face the media here. Questions were fired, Singh batted well.
Will Sachin Tendulkar play Sunday’s match against Team Punjab at the Wankhede Stadium? “He’s fit to play,” said Singh. He’s fit, but will he play? “He’s fit to play,” repeated Singh.
It took the media at least five similar deliveries (read: questions) to make Singh fumble. Finally, he said: “He’s fine and playing tomorrow.”
There’s an unnecessary veil of secrecy that surrounds Team Mumbai right now, naturally owing to the disastrous loss in the last match against Delhi and they seem to be sulking further because of a crucial injury to their match-winning bowler Lasith Malinga. How is Malinga? “He’s gone and will be back next week,” said Singh. How bad is Malinga’s injury? “He’s got a sore back. He’ll be fit to play next week,” said the coach.
But will he play? The straight bat again.
Without Tendulkar at the helm, Mumbai’s batting appeared clueless against a very competitive Delhi last Monday. In Malinga’s prolonged absence, the bowling has to reinvent itself.
For bowling, Mumbai have Shaun Pollock to rely on. For batting, there’s Tendulkar himself. Fielding is taken care of by Jonty Rhodes. Former big-hitter Lance Klusener figures in the support staff. In Neil Walker, there’s a physiotherapist who’s worked with the Rugby Union and elite athletes in UK. Matt Dwyer, the physical trainer, is associated with the University of Sydney.
Punjab are relatively free of such pressure. They’re a team with lesser stars and lesser expectations. Captain Adam Gilchrist’s injury – he’s certainly out for another week – doesn’t put the team in the kind of pressure that Tendulkar’s puts Mumbai in.