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Riders look for breezy win

Down and almost out, Mumbai Indians will take on Kolkata Knight Riders in their IPL match at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday with resurrection being the theme for the beleaguered outfit.

Yes, Sachin Tendulkar is steadily recovering from a groin injury that has rendered him hors de combat since the second Test against South Africa. The batting maestro is trying his best to be fit for Tuesday’s match and according to the team physio, there is an outside chance he might make it. "His fitness report will come tommorrow morning and will decide accordingly," Mumbai Indian coach Lalchand Rajput told this newspaper.

If Tendulkar plays, then equations can change very fast. The match then gets a different dimension altogether, as a clash between Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly is always a mouth-watering prospect. Without Tendulkar, however, the Mumbai Indians will have to start as underdogs.

The Indians need to get their batting right. The problem is, their top order is not firing. The onus is on Sanath Jayasuriya to get his side out of the woods. At 39, the Sri Lankan may have past his prime, but still has the ability to change the course of a match in five overs. With Harbhajan Singh suspended for 11 matches, he will have to come good with his left-arm orthodox spin as well.

The middle order also needs some re-thinking. Young Abhishek Nayar, the only silver lining in an otherwise very subdued effort, is wasted at number six. With 101 runs, at a strike rate of 150-plus, the 25-year-old from Secunderabad deserves a promotion in the batting order so that he gets the chance to plan his innings. And it’s high time Robin Uthappa raise his hand to be counted.

As far as bowling is concerned, Dilhara Fernando or Lasith Malinga may make an entry. Their extra pace could be a factor on an Eden Gardens wicket that has sprinkling of grass. After the pitch fiasco in the match against the Deccan Chargers, BCCI pitches and grounds committee head Daljit Singh took charge and he is satisfied with the strip that will be used on Tuesday.

The wicket has been watered rigorously and it appears to be firm and is likely to offer good carry. The evening breeze may also allow some swing.

Knight Riders, on the other hand, are still pretty confident despite their loss to the Chennai Super Kings. However, that defeat may ring in some changes in the line-up. Umar Gul has been included in the squad and is likely to play.

The hosts have batting problems of their own. Save Bredon McCullum, nobody has had a decent outing in the middle. Ricky Ponting is under pressure with back-to-back noughts against his name. This match will be his last in this edition of the IPL and Ponting will want to redeem himself, much as Adam Gilchrist did for the Chargers on Sunday. Skipper Ganguly’s form too is a cause of major concern. Completely outwitted by Muttiah Muralitharan the other day, the Bengal left-hander needs to get act together quickly.

Meanwhile, work is in full swing at the Eden Gardens which has grabbed the spotlight for all the wrong reasons of late.

Hectic efforts are being made to ensure uninterrupted power. The previous tie had to be halted for 31 minutes when two light towers went off.

There were also complaints of lack of adequate drinking water and unclean washrooms, but the authorities have promised that such lapses would not be repeated.

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