Indian heavyweights meet in P.E

India superstars MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar will clash in their teams’ bid for a semi-final spot in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

Hurting from a two wicket loss by the Royal Challengers Bangalore, a wounded Chennai Super Kings will be playing for pride against the Mumbai Indians in a bid to secure their semi-final spot in the Indian Premier League.

Importantly, though the Mumbai Indians too have everything to play for given their dramatic loss to the Rajasthan Royals in Durban on Thursday night, making the game tomorrow a win – or – perish situation for the Tendulkar-led team.

You would be able to tell how close the battle for the semi-finals spot is by the fact that a mere two points separate the Mumbai Indians, who are in sixth place in the league table, from the Chennai Super Kings, who are second. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men are sitting pretty with 13 points in their kitty from 11 matches, while Sachin Tendulkar has a tough task on hand with a mere 11 points from their 12 appearances in the high-profile tournament so far.

The Mumbai Indians will be hoping to take the energy from the narrow two-run loss to the Rajasthan Royals and use it against a potent Chennai Super Kings side. They, too, however, also lost in Durban on Thursday, going down by two wickets to the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The captain of the Mumbai Indians, Sachin Tendulkar, has changed the batting order around in the last few games, promoting Dwayne Bravo up the order. Yesterday he himself batted further down and was on track to lead his team home until he was trapped in front leg before by Shane Warne.

‘You always try out certain things and new things to see if they work,’ said Tendulkar. ‘With the same batting order, we fell just short by two runs.

‘Towards the end, there was some panic. We lost in a similar manner last year, and we have to try and win everything we can from here.’

The Chennai Super Kings have remained mostly constant in their selection, with Matt Hayden, the Australian great, a rock around which the rest of the team tends to bat. But the 60 he scored against the Royal Challengers Bangalore was not backed up by the others in scoring enough for the team to defend.

‘Our fielding has been suspect throughout the tournament,’ said captain MS Dhoni. “We are a safe fielding side, but not a brilliant fielding side. We have a lot of youngsters in the side who can’t throw or run all that well.’

Interestingly, though the Chennai Super Kings had lost the season opener in Cape Town to the Mumbai Indians. But one has to state that inspite of the initial loss, it is the Chennai Super Kings that look to be in a
stronger position for this encounter despite its unimpressive fielding. Especially since the Chennai Super Kings boast one of the strongest batting line-ups of the tournament which also runs deep with the
likes of Australian swashbuckler Matthew Hayden, Suresh Raina, M.S. Dhoni, Jacob Oram and S Badrinath in their ranks.

Their bowling department is also studded with world’s highest wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan, Lakshmipathy Balaji and greenhorn Shahdab Jakati, who is proving very effective for the side.

On the slip side the Mumbai Indians side with the frequent chopping and changing in their batting order, have a point to prove tomorrow. Thus, one can expect Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya along with JP Duminy, Dwayne Bravo and Abhishek Nayar to come out all guns blazing to pull off a win in their favour.

Their bowling department, led by star bowlers Lasitha Malinga and Harbhajan Singh, will also have to rise to the occasion as it would undoubtedly be the need of the hour given their predicament to win both their next two matches.

‘We have got big teams to play. We have got Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Daredevils who are on the top. It will not be easy and it is a big task for us. We need to help ourselves. We need to get those 15 points to see us through,’ admitted Mumbai’s chief mentor Shaun Pollock after losing against Rajasthan Royals yesterday.