Advantage Mumbai, says coach Pollock
Having played two of their four Group A fixtures here at Chepauk as against none by their semi-final rivals Somerset, coach Shaun Pollock believes that his team Mumbai Indians have more than a whiff of chance to win the Champions League T20 game to be played Saturday.
Of more significance is that Mumbai are aware what to expect from the Chepauk pitch that has attracted more than its share of attention owing to the nature of the surface that has been on the slower and lower side, said Pollock.
"It's interesting to say the least. Our game against New South Wales was very difficult. We have played two games and managed to experience what the conditions are all about. We know what to expect.
"I think we have to just adjust on the day. I mean we don't quite know how the pitch is going to play until we see how the first five or six deliveries behave," said Pollock at a media conference here on Thursday.
Despite former Aussie star Andrew Symonds' poor form with the bat, Pollock asserted that the all-rounder still has a lot to contribute by way of his vast experience and that he has specific role to play within the team's game-plan while responding to a query whether he would be promoted in the batting order.
"I don't think a semifinal is the time to get a player's confidence going and rhythm back. You want your best batsmen at the crease. I think that's the key in T20 cricket. You want the guys who are in good knick at the top of the order. Andrew knows what his role is, that of a finisher, that's why he comes down the order.
"I think with a player like Andrew, experience counts. He has got more chance of turning around a tournament than an inexperienced player. He has that ability and vast experience," Pollock said.
Stressing on the obvious, Pollock said his team had specific plans for each of the Somerset batsmen and have plenty of footage.
"We have a plan for each batsman we come up against. They played in the qualifying tournament, so we have a lot of footage on them. I know (Roleof) van der Merwe quite well from South Africa. We know they have quite some strength at the top of the order. Craig Kieswetter is a fantastic player," he said referring to the Proteas left-arm spinner and the England ODI batsman.
While tacitly admitting that the Mumbai top-order batting has not quite fired, Pollock preferred to take a positive perspective as a coach should.
"You can look at it in two ways: you can either be concerned or excited. From my side, the glass is half full. The batting unit hasn't clicked... it has operated at 75 per cent of its potential so far. As far as we can get that right as a unit, we will be very happy," he said.
Pollock disclosed that he had different plans for different bowlers who would be operating in the death overs, with emphasis on restricting the expected flow of runs.
"At the end of the day, you can't control what a batsman does and got to stick with your game plan and in what you believe is the right option to restrict the batsmen," said the former South African all-rounder.
On Somerset captain and compatriot Alfonso Thomas who has taken seven wickets with his seam-up bowling so far, Pollock said: "I think he understands the surface he is playing on and uses the slower ball to good effect. On a wicket that holds, that is very effective. He understands he has the ability to work yorkers. I think he is an all-round T20 player now."
Pollock had a word of praise for skipper Harbhajan Singh saying the off-spinner had shouldered the responsibility with aplomb in the absence of injured Sachin Tendulkar.
"Bhajji is the kind of person who thrives on responsibility, whether it be as a captain or on the field. If you give him the ball in a pressure situation, I think that's when he performs best.
"He has been very calm, relaxed and focused on the job. He has taken advice from players all over the field and been keen to what the coaching staff has to offer.
"So, I think he has done a good job and has backed it up with quality performances which is important for a captain, to lead from the front. Lot of credit for our success has to go to Harbhajan for the way he has performed as captain," said Pollock.