The Champions League tournament has now officially started with two of the biggest teams in IPL and franchise cricket coming together to launch this tournament in the most spectacular fashion. The biggest theme going into this match is the clash of the Legends Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, who will likely be bowing out of the shortest format of this wonderful sport, Cricket. The teams have last played in Qualifier 2 in the IPL where Mumbai Indians put the already fixing-plagued RR team out of their misery by eliminating them from the tournament.
Rahul Dravid’s team – Rajasthan Royals
First and foremost challenge for Dravid and his RR team is to make sure they restore the credibility of the team after the Sreesanth-gate scandal that shook their team. Fortunately, Dravid is the very man you would want to be leading your team when faced with such a challenge. He will be very well assisted by Paddy Upton, the head coach.
They could not have asked for a better place to start their tough path [to win their fans’ loyalty back] than the fortress that is their home ground – the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur. They were unbeaten in this Citadel through-out IPL – 6. Their batting looks formidable [Rahane and Dravid] with a slight hint at intimidation [Hodge and Watson]. Talking about intimidation, Watson’s performance in the IPL where he was awarded the MVP for his scintillating contributions in both disciplines – batting [543 @ SR of 143] and bowling [ 13 wickets]. His hundred against England signals his form and he will be ably assisted by Hodge, Dravid and Rahane as they have done in IPL 6. Ashok Menaria ‘s performance all-round performance against New-Zeland A team should also augur for the Royals.
The Bowling department is their bigger challenge as it has been hit the most by the scandal, but then again considering how loose a cannon Sreesanth was during his playing days, maybe it might prove to be a blessing in disguise. The part-timers and the relatively inexperienced regular bowlers will have to step it up but Faulkner/Tait need to have to keep their eye on the ball, straight off the bat, as there will not be much margin for error against the batting might of Mumbai Indians.
Sachin Tendulkar’s Mumbai Indians
This could be the end of the road for the Greatest LOI Cricketer to have walked this earth – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar in the tournament that, in some ways, owes its origin to the revolution this colossus of the game brought about as he single-mindedly pursued perfection with a passion that captured the imagination of a nation of billion souls. Sachin’s form over the last few years has been dwindling and he will hope to have made a decisive turn for the best [the final turn of this legendary career?]. Sachin will have to give solid starts to a batting line-up whose might can match the very best – Dwayne Smith, Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik, whose spectacular transformation [during the last 1year] on the batting front has only been overshdowed by Shikhar Dhawan’s magic.
Getting into the details, Sachin will have to provide solidity to the line-up along with Rohit Sharma and allow the others to keep their focus on scoring runs at the pace demanded by the match-situation. Smith, Rayudu, Pollard and Karthik should convert their starts and make make sure MI’s batting doesn’t falter like it did during the league stages in IPL – 6. Rohit Sharma has led the IPL champions amazingly well and if he keeps up his good work, MI will add to their steadily increasing trophy cabinet.
Their bowling department suffered a setback with Malinga opting out, but his replacement Mitchell Johnson is a slinger himself and could cause considerable damage on his day. Harbhajan and Ojha will ensure the slow-bowling department will be well served well and part-timers like Pollard, Coulter-Nile (or Maxwell, should he play and Rohit Sharma himself) can follow the lead set by the experienced bowlers. Rishi Dhawan is another new bowling prospect for MI who will have to make sure he does not undo the work done by the other team-mates.
Bottom Line: The rains in Mumbai means sluggish pitches and in such cases you with the less flamboyant and more industrious team – Rajasthan Royals in conditions and on a pitch that may not assist shot-making.