Bengaluru, Sept. 25: The Mumbai Indians are yet to register a win in the second phase of the IPL 2021, and the defending champions are in desperate need for some good news.
The return of the star all-rounder Hardik Pandya maybe the boost the defending champions need, as MI Director of Cricket Operations, Zaheer Khan revealed on Saturday that Pandya would be fit to play in Mumbai's next game.
The Rohit Sharma-led side is set to take on Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday at the Dubai International Stadium.
MI did not have the best of starts to the second phase of the IPL, as the five-time champs have lost both their matches so far, and has slipped down from the fourth spot.
After losing to Chennai Super Kings by 20 runs in their first match after the season restarted, MI crashed to a seven-wicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders in their next game, eventually slipping down to sixth position on the IPL points table.
On Sunday, speaking during the pre-match press conference, Zaheer Khan sounded optimistic about Hardik's return to the playing XI for Sunday's (Sept. 26) game.
"Well, we have a practice session today lined up, so after we finish the press conference we are going to go there and will take an informed call on that. He (Hardik) has started practicing, that's what I can share with you guys right now. So, we are hopeful that he (Hardik) will be fit and available. That's what we are hoping," PTI quoted the former India pacer saying at the pre-match conference.
Earlier Mumbai coach Mahela Jayawardane had said that the Baroda all-rounder had missed the game against Chennai due a little niggle and had also missed the next game against KKR.
Despite, losing their place in the top four, Zaheer said teams have become smart in the approach to the defending champions, but Mumbai know how to perform under pressure.
"As you know, IPL is a very highly competitive tournament, so teams are always trying to have a one up on each other and they are getting smart in their preparation and these days every team is analysing every other team. So we have to stay on the top.
"The focus has always been on us, this team has been so successful because we have been focusing on our processes, our strengths and our players who are taking the field. And these are the players who have got us the championship, so we have that kind of approach and we have had quite a lot of good conversations around those things," he said.
"When it comes to the back-end of the tournament, the pressure is (high), this team certainly knows how to perform under pressure," stated Zaheer.
Since the IPL restarted, after being suspended midway due to covid-19 cases in the biobubble, the Mumbai middle-order has misfired in the first two games. "When you look at the scorecard, you will say ya (laughs), there is a concern."
But Zaheer stressed that it was just a matter of time. "But I don't see it (the middle-order form) as a concern. It is just about finding that rhythm. You have seen in this format and this tournament particularly that once you get on a roll, you can win a couple of games together," he said.
"This team has been so successful because of certain processes in terms of form, it is always just one innings away, be it a batter or a bowler and for you to win games of cricket, everything has to come together," he explained.
Zaheer added that Mumbai got off to good starts in the last two games but weren't able to finish off things. "So far, we have been getting good starts, we have been having those platforms, (we are) not being able to close in those situations, so the focus will be on that going forward. It is just about everything coming together and we just need that one game and that one game I am certain has to be the next game," he said.
"Because we are getting in that business end of the tournament where every game is going to matter and every game is going to bring in more pressure. When we have such a successful background to look at and such experienced players to fall back on, we are looking forward to the challenge and we are looking forward to the opportunity we have right now, going forward to make history. It is just a matter of time before we turn things around," Zaheer signed off.
Both Mumbai and Bangalore have lost two matches each since the IPL restarted and the two sides will be eager to return to winnings ways as the tournament heads towards the business end.
(With inputs from PTI)