For a good quarter of an hour, it seemed you had entered a time warp. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh bowled in tandem, spinning a web around the batsmen. At the adjacent nets, Sachin Tendulkar was absorbed in his customary knocking, facing throw downs from a member of the support staff.
Monitoring their every move closely was John Wright, who stood at his vantage point behind the nets with hands on hips.
The Mumbai Indians practice session at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday seemed a setting straight out of the early 2000s. You wondered if Wright would be secretly hoping that the trio, architects of many a win during his reign as India coach, mastermind a complete turnaround in fortunes.
So what if Kumble and Tendulkar find themselves in advisory roles! The victory over Kings XI Punjab on Saturday, the team’s first in this edition of the tournament, has added a spring in the step of the Mumbai players. The camp looked a much happier place than what it was a few days ago. After losing five matches in a row, the win over Punjab has got the monkey off their back.
But their new-found confidence will be tested once again on Tuesday, when they host the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the destructive AB de Villiers.
Mumbai’s spirits would be partially dampened after the news of Zaheer Khan being ruled out due to a back injury. With five wickets so far this season, the veteran Indian paceman has been one of the few positives for Mumbai along with his new-ball partner Lasith Malinga. It will be interesting to see how a Zaheer-less Mumbai deal with the star-studded RCB batting line-up.
However, more than their bowling, what would worry Wright is his side’s inconsistency with the bat. Without an established set of openers, Mumbai have failed to get steady starts, which can provide the platform for big-hitters Corey Anderson and Kieron Pollard. In their previous meeting between the two sides this season in Dubai, Mumbai were bundled out for a paltry 115 and the Virat Kohli-led side chased down the target with ease.
Bangalore were on a downslide since that win, losing three matches in a row. However, they snapped the losing streak with a fine win over Sunrisers Hyderabad at home on Sunday. But like Mumbai the other day, RCB’s win — de Villiers made an unbeaten 89 off 41 — was more because of individual brilliance instead of an overall team effort.
Not that the teams mind it, though. “A win is always good, it doesn’t matter how they come sometimes,” Wright said. “RCB is a tough opponent but we have got a team that can beat anyone on the day. We can’t look at what has happened. We have to look forward.”