New Delhi, May 21 -- For all practical purposes in Indian cricket, Chennai and Mumbai have often stood as chief rivals.
When the two face each other in Qualifier 1 of the Indian T20 league on Tuesday, with a spot in the final the reward for the winner, the rivalry will demand a lot more than usual. In part because they are playing away from home in searing Delhi, and mostly because the spot-fixing scandal will loom large over this game between the two best teams this season.
The pressure will be felt by the players. Each effort will be scrutinised. A dropped catch, a false stroke, a wide, or even the accessories they don, whether it is a wristband or a towel.
It is difficult to imagine from the sidelines what kind of pressure the players would be under. And Chennai Super Kings coach, Stephen Fleming, despite his experience, looked a tad fazed when asked about this.
"It is only suspicion from outside. Everything will be speculated from outside. I guess the only way is that you'll have to isolate it and concentrate on the game," he said.
Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma said: "Everybody here is a professional. We have a bigger job than that to worry about it."
Despite both teams sounding confident they can brush aside the issue, it will be tough to banish them.
Fleming admitted that. "It is disappointing to see that. (The other events) will overshadow it," he said.
Fleming's boys have been beaten twice by Mumbai Indians this season, the away game in Mumbai resulting in a mauling. But among the few things that may tilt the contest in their favour are the massive experience they have of the final of the tournament, Mumbai's pathetic away record this season and the doubt over Sachin Tendulkar's participation.
Twice champions CSK are also two-time losing finalists. MI are still looking for their first title.
These games were originally slotted for Chennai but the ban on Sri Lanka players forced them to be moved to Delhi. Tendulkar, who missed the last league match in Dharamsala due to injury, has been bowling at the nets in the last two pre-game practice sessions. In times like these, MI wouldn't want the world's most experienced player to be away.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.