Royal Challengers Bangalore coach Ray Jennings is backing the Mumbai Indians to clinch the IPL title on April 25 despite the fact that the hosts might have to play without inspirational skipper Sachin Tendulkar in the final against Chennai Super Kings.
“The overall areas in 20-over cricket have been played better by the Mumbai side than any other side in the competition. Definitely my money is on them but looking at Twenty20 cricket, any side can win on their day,” said Jennings on Friday.
“Mumbai have home ground advantage, they are playing good cricket. They understand their roles and seem to be clicking as a unit. The fielding’s been good and the death bowling has been good,” he said.
Tendulkar is doubtfut after splitting the webbing on his right hand and Jennings felt the mere presence of the maestro, who turns 37 tomorrow, would be a major boost.
“Sachin obviously is the key guy in their batting line-up, but with his finger (injury) I don’t know if he is going to play. If he does play, he might struggle to hold the bat. That’s quite a key guy in the captaincy as well and in the energy on the field,” he said.
“I don’t think Mumbai can afford to lose that guy in the side, especially the image that he creates,” Jennings said.
Jennings felt the wicket prepared for RCB’s semi-final clash against MI was totally different from the one on which the Super Kings defeated last year’s winners Deccan Chargers by 38 runs and hinted Tendulkar’s role in the type of wicket prepared for the first tie.
“I think our wicket against Mumbai was totally different to the one they played on last night. We obviously would have prepared what we wanted had the semi-final been in Bangalore. I think Sachin spent a bit of time there and made sure the wicket is prepared the way he sought,” he said.
Jennings said that the first match was played on a spin-oriented pitch to deny Bangalore’s pace attack any advantage while on Thursday there was bounce and seam movement.
“The wicket we played on was a lot more sandy and spin-friendly. It didn’t have the bounce and the seam movement that we saw last night. That was the true stadium wicket that we saw last night,” the RCB coach said.
Jennings was candid enough to say it would be tough to bounce back after the semi-final loss and focus on against the Chargers in the placings match on Saturday that would decide the third qualifier for the Champions League.
“It’s a tough job. Obviously the guys are very disappointed that they weren’t in the final but that’s professional sport. The important thing is for the guys to understand that winners are guys that come back after a loss.
Jennings hoped the extra day of rest that Bangalore got would work in his team’s favour.
“I suppose the Deccan Chargers have got one day shorter than we have got. It’s going to be tough for their side as well as ours. Hopefully, our side’s a lot more professional than the opposition,” he said.
Jennings conceded that the loss of form of Jacques Kallis in the later part of the tournament had affected his team’s performance.
“Yes, I think Kallis has gone off a little bit on his form but he is a world-class cricketer and he can get form at any stage. In this tournament, it?s quite easy to go off form if you lose one or two wickets early and you are under pressure. Pressure turns quite quickly in this game,” he said.
“We are aware of Kallis’s form but again, the Deccan Chargers won’t be happy to bowl against Kallis because he is a world-class cricketer,” he said.
Jennings described IPL as a very unpredictable tournament because of the sheer number of games, travelling, change in conditions and night parties.
“To me, it is the most unpredictable tournament or cricket series that I have been involved in. You have media and so many games, hot weather, change of climate, travelling every day, different hotels, parties at nights. It’s one of those tournaments that is very unpredictable.