Ganguly has task cut out against strong Mumbai


Ganguly at AUS Match
MUMBAI: Pune skipper Sourav Ganguly faces a big hurdle when he leads a severely depleted team against Mumbai, who are on a high after spanking defending champions Chennai in the IPL opener.

The only respite for Ganguly is the uncertainty surrounding the availability of Sachin Tendulkar, who hurt his finger in Wednesday's opener. "The scans haven't revealed anything serious and hopefully he should be available for the game," said Mumbai captain Harbhajan Singh.

Mumbai are gunning for their first title and look formidable. The addition of South Africa's opener Richard Levi, who made a smashing IPL debut by blasting 50 off 35 balls, and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who picked up two crucial wickets to kick off his Mumbai sojourn in style, has added more muscle to the CLT20 winners.

Pune, who finished second last in the previous season, look weaker this time. While the team lost South Africa's Test captain Graeme Smith recently and Australian allrounders Mitchell Marsh and James Hopes earlier, the biggest blow is the absence of regular skipper Yuvraj Singh. The absence of Yuvraj has pitchforked Ganguly, who was acquired last year after a lot of drama, into a very familiar role: that of captain and mentor.

Ganguly, though, has the support of some terrific brains in the support staff: former South African pace ace Allan Donald (bowling coach), ex-India batsman Pravin Amre (batting coach) - who guided Mumbai to three Ranji crowns - and Paddy Upton (mental conditioning coach) who was with the World Cup-winning Indian team last year.

On the field though, Ganguly will be all by himself as he tries to work out how to score off Lasith Malinga's toe-crushers or how to stop the rasping blade of Levi. The man himself has managed a strike-rate of merely 108.64 in this format.

However, as Ganguly has shown plenty of times before, it is never wise to write him off. He is also someone who can get the best out of a troubled Jesse Ryder. If the likes of Uthappa, Manish Pandey and Tamim Iqbal fire, 'Dada's Army' can upset the apple cart.

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