Barely two weeks after that glorious evening at the Wankhede Stadium when India lifted the World Cup, the sights and the sounds surrounding the newly renovated structure present a contrasting picture.
Lasith Malinga, who invited India and definitely Mumbai’s wrath when he had Sachin Tendulkar caught behind in the title clash, now pumps fists from gigantic posters when you enter the ground. This is the same Malinga who had silenced a billion people into silence, albeit briefly, on April 2.
Such is the nature of the beast called the Indian Premier League.
The tournament returns to the Wankhede after 2008, IPL’s inaugural year, and Mumbai Indians’ mentor is confident that when Sachin Tendulkar walks out to bat, it’ll be a good indication of how the World Cup victory has enlivened India’s cricketing mood.
“Sachin gets cheered at whichever stadium he plays and something similar is going to happen at the Wankhede. The tickets are all gone and the buzz is great,” says Pollock, identifying himself with the madness surrounding the ongoing tournament.
Mumbai Indians have been on a roll in the two matches they’ve played so far. No doubts then that they’re being rightly tipped as outright favourites against the weak-looking Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
The news from the home team camp is already intimidating. Mumbai are likely to field former Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds in place of James Franklin and worse for Kochi, West Indian Kieron Pollard hasn’t even walked out to bat in the tournament as yet. Symonds had been nursing a minor niggle but was seen on Thursday evening sweating it out at the nets.
Kochi’s frailties stem not so much from their seemingly uneven batting line up as much as the lack of any depth in their attack. Barring Muttiah Muralitharan, who hasn’t even been a shadow of his own self, and S Sreesanth, for who Tuskers can only pray that he keeps his head on his shoulders, the rest of the bowling line-up has appeared clueless.
In a tournament where unpredictability is the key word, Mumbai Indians have lent a refreshing trend. They often tend to live up to the top billing. That, according to Pollock, happens when any of the young domestic cricketers rises to the occasion.
The mentor cites examples of Ambati Rayudu and Ali Mortaza who have been impressive so far. Tuskers need to be wary of this side for sure. Skipper Mahela Jayawardene likes to look at things positively and says, “It is just the beginning of the tournament, we need not be negative. I think just one win can change things for us.”
For a theory like that to be put into practice, Tuskers will have their task cut out on Friday itself.