Mumbai:The threat of Sachin Tendulkar taking the game away by the scruff looms as the biggest hurdle between defending champions Deccan Chargers and a victory in their Indian Premier League tie against Mumbai Indians at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.
Tendulkar, who created history by making a double hundred against South Africa in Gwalior ODI last month, has not let up in his run-scoring ways and stands tall for Mumbai Indians in their quest to clinch the coveted IPL crown after the disappointment of the first two seasons.
The champion batsman has been in sublime form and has literally led his team from the front with his superb poise at the crease, which is reflected in MI going into the tie atop the points table with eight points.
Tendulkar's masterly knocks of 63 off 32 balls with 10 fours floored Delhi Daredevils at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
His successive knocks of unbeaten 48-ball 71, embellished with 10 fours and 72 off 52 with a six and eight fours knocked out the challenge posed by Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings in MI's last two matches.
The manner in which he has shepherded the batsmen at the other end like Jharkhand youngster Saurabh Tiwary has been a good lesson for others to follow.
If Deccan Chargers, shell-shocked by the murderous assault on Friday by Yusuf Pathan in their match against Rajasthan Royals, have to get back their campaign on the track, it's imperative they stop Tendulkar at the earliest.
But it has not been only Tendulkar who has performed for Mumbai Indians whose lone defeat came against the Anil Kumble-led Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The long-haired Tiwary has given splendid support to his captain with two half-centuries and a couple of other good starts to his credit while Ambati Rayudu, who later injured his elbow and is again doubtful for Sunday's match, also forged a good combination with Tiwary in helping the team's cause.
Left-handed Delhi Ranji player Shikhar Dhawan has filled up the big shoes vacated by out-of-form Sanath Jayasuriya admirably and was, in fact, allowed free rein by Tendulkar in their March 25 match against CSK during their stand of 92.
West Indians Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, the costliest signing at the last players' auction, have shown only glimpses of their obvious talent but always look a big enough threat to the opposition.
The Mumbai bowling has been quite good with Harbhajan Singh being the pick in the middle overs.
Lasith Malinga has done his bit for Mumbai in the end, though he and Zaheer Khan went for quite a few runs against CSK when Suresh Raina and S Badrinath forged a 142-run stand.
A major plus point was the bowling of Ryan McLaren with the new ball in that match, and with Bravo and Pollard as back-ups, the MI attack looks very balanced.
Deccan Chargers, on the other hand, have not been consistent and have to recover quickly from not only the heavy loss suffered against the Royals but also from the traveling from Ahmedabad to Navi Mumbai.
They are scheduled to reach this metropolis only on Saturday and are not going to practice, according to team sources.
The Chargers batting has let them down in the two games they had lost. In the opening encounter at this venue on March 12 against KKR they could not chase a modest total and were stopped at 150. They could not reach even that total in the match against RR last night.
The key performer with both bat and ball has been the big-built Andrew Symonds whose contributions have been crucial. With the bat he has scored two half-centuries and has also taken six wickets, second behind Chaminda Vaas's eight.
Skipper Adam Gilchrist and one-down Herschelle Gibbs have threatened to explode but are yet to do so in full measure, while Rohit Sharma seems to have discovered his touch in the last two games ?- making 45 and 49 against Delhi Daredevils at Cuttack and RR at Ahmedabad respectively.
VVS Laxman, given the chance to open with Gilchrist, has struggled to adjust to the frenetic Twenty20 format and DC might have to take a call on him soon.
In bowling, Vaas has been in good form and DC would look up to him to give early breakthroughs, especially with Tendulkar's prized wicket.
But RP Singh has not been up to the mark while left-arm slow bowler Pragyan Ojha has delivered reasonably well.