MI look forward to get campaign on track
After a five-game losing streak, the Chargers earned their first points against Kolkata Knight Riders in a washed-out game and then scored their first win of the season against Pune Warriors in the latter`s backyard.
MI`s performance has waxed and waned from the opening encounter against defending champions Chennai Super Kings and they go into the game against the Chargers with a 50:50 win-loss record, their last defeat occurring last night against the Delhi Daredevils.
Another defeat would dent their chances of advancing to the play-off stage of the competition considerably. Chargers, on the other hand, would be keen to set right the last-ball defeat suffered against MI at Visakhapatnam on April 9 when Rohit Sharma carried the latter across the finish line with an unbeaten 73. With just eight points from as man games, the task has become more challenging for MI to make it to the last four.
Some bad luck, in the form of injuries to key players, has also set MI back. When Sachin Tendulkar regained fitness to finally take the field after recovering from the finger injury sustained in the tournament opener, the team`s bowling spearhead, Lasith Malinga, was laid low by a sore back.
Malinga returned to the playing eleven at Delhi`s Ferozshah Kotla but the side were without James Franklin in the same match after the New Zealander had cracked a match-winning 79 against Kings XI here on April 22. That the victory was obtained in the absence of key South African fast bowler Dale Steyn, who was rested and replaced by compatriot Juan Theron, was heartening for the Chargers.
The worrying factor for Chargers is the lack of form of captain Kumar Sangakkara who has mustered only 83 runs from five games. He`s another important batsman who needs to fire for the Chargers to entertain hopes of downing MI in their backyard.
Franklin`s replacement at the top of the order Aiden Blizzard fell for a third-ball duck against the Daredevils.
The Tendulkar-Blizzard opening combination was the sixth one tried out by MI in eight games, an indication of the struggle the team has gone through to put up a settled opening pair on the field.
The latest worry for MI is the shoulder injury sustained by their main all rounder Kieron Pollard who fell on the right shoulder while fielding and looked in pain after hitting a huge six when batting later. The bowling form of Munaf Patel and skipper Harbhajan Singh is also a major worry for MI. Harbhajan has taken just one wicket in eight games.
Tendulkar returned to IPL after missing four games, but has looked a bit rusty. The team`s unsettled opening pair has hurt the batting order which has been wobbly on all but three occasions. A huge effort would be needed to put MI`s stuttering campaign back on track, though the return to form of middle order batsman Ambati Rayudu as well as wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik, is a big relief for them.
Despite their defeat against the Daredevils, MI would fancy their chances against the struggling Chargers who finally broke their winless streak with an 18-run victory over Pune Warriors.