Even without Sachin, Mumbai is strong: Sid Mallya

It's Super Sunday for Royal Challengers Bangalore team director Siddhartha Mallya. In the first half of the day, the in-form Force India Formula One team, owned and marshaled by his father Dr Vijay Mallya, competes in the Japanese GP. Later, RCB take on Mumbai Indians in the Champions League final in Chennai. The Mumbai outfit beat Somerset in Saturday's semi-final. Mallya Jr spoke to SUNDAY MiD DAY even as he and some of RCB's players followed the semi-final action between MI and Somerset on television in their Chennai hotel room.

Are you surprised that you are not up against Chennai in the final?

It's definitely a surprise that Chennai didn't make the semi-finals because they are a very strong team. But it's going to be a tough final nevertheless because when you get to a stage like that in a tournament, anything can happen on the day.

There's no Sachin in the Mumbai Indians line-up. Is that a relief?
I wouldn't say Sachin's absence is a relief to us because when it comes down to the final, it all boils down to what happens on that day. Whether Mumbai have Sachin or don't have Sachin, they still remain a very strong team and that's why they've reached this far in the tournament. Of course Sachin's presence would have made a huge difference to Mumbai Indians because he's their key player. But then it's a final � and it's a team game, so it doesn't really matter who you're opponent is. You've got to just go out there and get them.

The popularity of the Indian Premier League doesn't seem to have rubbed off on the Champions League. As a team owner how do you react to dropping TV ratings and empty stands? Does it have anything to do with the fact that a few senior Indian players are injured and so missing?
No, I don't think it's to do with the absence of the senior India players. Look, obviously the crowd is not the same as it was during the IPL. But then, you have to understand that in an IPL match, both teams are Indian, so naturally the support is that much more as people identify with a particular franchise and its Indian players. But in the case of the CLT20, in almost every match, one team is a foreign one and so they lack the fan following here. Honestly, I don't think we can expect the TRPs to be as high as during the IPL. If tomorrow there is a match between Trinidad & Tobago and Cape Cobras, why should an average Indian fan come here to watch it when there are 22 players they don't know.

RCB had a rather rough start to the CLT20 before Chris Gayle came out all guns blazing. Is there a fear of over-reliance on one man?
Absolutely not, because you cannot say that RCB have gotten into the final only because of Chris. Of course, he is an important part of our team, but then, so are Dilshan (Tillekeratne), Virat (Kohli) and (Arun) Karthik. RCB have achieved whatever success they have is because we have played together as a team. Recently, against South Australia Redbacks, we chased down a mammoth 215 without a huge innings from Chris.

Honestly, with a six needed off the last ball, did you think RCB would make it to the semi-finals?
We knew we had to win that game at all costs. In fact in the previous game against the Redbacks too, we had to win and with a good run-rate, that too. We did it, so the build-up to this game was there. The chase was massive, but we knew that the Bangalore wicket is batting-friendly because England had chased down India's 339 during their tied match at the World Cup here earlier this year. We began strongly and were always in the hunt. At one stage, we needed 18 off 12 balls before Shaun (Tait) bowled a fine over leaving us needing 14 off the last over and then six off the last ball. To be honest, I had stopped thinking before that final delivery. And just like Karthik, even I was in a state of shock after that six. 

What's your corporate box going to be like for Sunday's final? Any special invitees?
I have not invited anyone into the corporate box so I'm really not expecting any special guests.

It's a big sporting day for you considering Force India will be at the Japanese GP. Are you going to be split between Formula One and cricket?
It's a big day indeed and I hope it turns out to be a fine one too. I'm a huge F1 fan, but then, I don't really think I'll be split between the two because I love cricket. For me, without hesitation, it's cricket first. I'm openly partial to it.

On a more personal front, what's it like to be in the limelight and with all the gossip that's written about you?
Recently a photo-shopped picture of you feeling up Katrina Kaif (the pic has you giving her a hug, inserting your hand under her dress strap) at an IPL after-party did the rounds of Twitter. Oh ya, I saw that and it was really funny. I saw it on my phone and immediately recalled that moment. It was a picture shot with me and Katrina during last IPL. But the pic was doctored and I really had a huge laugh about it. What else can you do really? What's the point in getting upset about something you cannot control? People will say things, they will write about you regardless. Many papers have written bad things about me and there is also the good things that come out. All I do is laugh it out. But sometimes I think that there must be better things going on in the world that one can talk about rather than writing gossip.

Your pucker gets talked about a lot. Is that the one physical trait you think drives women wild (he is said to have a pucker that puts Angelina Jolie to shame)
Oh, I think I read that somewhere. I'm not too sure if I like it or if the ladies love it. Do they? Well, if they do, then it must be good, isn't it?


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