IPL Playoff: Mumbai take on Rajasthan in the clash of titans

Kolkata, May 23 (IANS) Notwithstanding serious doubts over injured Sachin Tendulkar's availability, Mumbai Indians would look to exorcise their Indian Premier League (IPL) playoffs demons when they meet Rajasthan Royals - a team determined to redeem themselves after being rocked by the spot fixing scandal - at the Eden Gardens Friday for a place in the final.

Over the years, despite having several superstars of world cricket in their ranks, Mumbai Indians have made it to the title round only once in 2010, but finished runners up. In the last two editions they were eliminated in the playoffs.

Their Opponents Rajasthan, who are battling spot fixing demons after three of their players including India international Sreesanth were arrested, have made it to the playoffs for the first time since becoming champions in the inaugural season of the cricketing extravaganza.

Mumbai led by skipper Rohit Sharma (534 runs) and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik (467 runs), have a very steady batting line up. The big hitting Caribbean duo of Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard add further muscle to the firepower, with their ability to take the game away from any rival once they get cracking.

On the bowling front, the Mumbai outfit has a very potent attack comprising the likes of Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson who between themselves have 39 scalps. With the Eden wicket keeping low and affording turn, the formidable spin partners Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha may well pose a threat to the Royals.

On the flip side, Mumbai have been hit by injury blues. Tendulkar (287 runs) is uncertain for Friday's game with an injured left wrist and hand. Pacer Dhawal Kulkarni is out of the tournament with a side strain.

After the spot-fixing scandal exploded, going out and performing without inhibitions in front of thousands of prying eyes, has been a challenge for the Rahul Dravid led side.

However, they managed to hold on to their nerves to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in a low scoring game Wednesday to seal a birth for the final playoff, the winner of which will clash with Chennai Super Kings in the final to be played at the Eden Gardens Sunday.

The Royals too are a formidable side galvanised by the likes of Shane Watson who single handedly can change the complexion of the game both with the bat and the ball. The burly Australian all-rounder so far has scored 537 runs including a blistering century from 15 innings and taken 12 wickets.

Going through tough times, skipper Rahul Dravid has led his team from the front scoring 428 runs with four 50s.

Opener Ajinkya Rahane (467 runs) has been a revelation and along with Dravid and Watson forms the bulwark of the Royals batting.

Stuart Binny and Brad Hodge have made useful contributions and after the Australian's match wining knock of 54 against Hyderabad in the eliminator, expectations from him have risen. Exciting young batsman Sanju Samson would also like to make himself count.

Their bowling attack is led by James Faulkner (27 wickets) who is just a wicket behind purple cap holder Chennai's Dwayne Bravo. West Indies' Kevon Cooper (17 wickets), Siddharth Trivedi (11) and Watson have provided good support to the lanky Australian pacer.

Friday's playoff at the Eden Gardens will surely be a mouth watering proposition for an expected capacity crowd to witness two legends of Indian cricket Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar crossing swords. Along with Mumbaikars, fans all-across would wish for Tendulkar to be fit for the game.