High-flying Mumbai Indians are looking at Saturday's game against cellar outfit Deccan Chargers here as a means to get back to the winning ways after their unexpected loss in the previous IPL match, said team mentor Shaun Pollock.
"It's become as important as any other game we have played. We have played well to win eight games out of 11 to top the table. It's a fantastic achievement. But it does not get easier from now on," the former South Africa captain said here on Friday.
"You want to focus on getting into the top two which makes it a lot easier. To do that we have to do really well, win every game from now on. Having lost the last game we need to get back on the winning trail. It's a very important game for us," said Pollock.
He was referring to the format of the tournament in which the top two finishers clash against each other in the play-offs on May 24 with the winner getting a direct berth in the May 28 final.
The losers of that tie would get another chance to reach the summit clash as they will play against the winners of the second play-off, to be held in Mumbai on May 25th, between the third and fourth-placed outfits on May 27th.
Pollock is of the opinion that with the points position as they are currently, it's still not clear who will make it to the play-offs.
"The winners of tonight's game also have got a chance. KKR or King's XI can get to 16 points. (There are) a lot of permutations. It looks like it's going to be all four teams that qualify will be playing on the last day (league) of the tournament, the 22nd. Hell of a lot to play for.
"It does make it a lot easier if you make it to the top two. I'm sure all teams which are competing would be eyeing those two spots," he said.
Pollock said the team's think tank was disappointed rather than worried about the batting collapse against King's XI Punjab in the previous match.
"Not too much worried. We have discussed that. We are too good a unit to be bowled out like that (for less than 100). We have got some fantastic players. It was disappointing.
"We don't mind losing from time to time. But the manner in which we lost the last game to King's XI was disappointing. I think that has motivated the team. They are very keen to get that right and play better tomorrow," he said.
"We have a very good unit. We are not worried about the latter part of the tournament as yet. We are concentrating on each league game. We still have to qualify for the play-offs.
"We will take the play-offs as they come. Last year we managed to get into the final against Chennai. Hopefully, we can repeat that," he added.
Pollock conceded that the finger injury sustained by wicket-keeper Davy Jacobs had come at a time when he seemed to be finding his feet as the opening partner for captain Sachin Tendulkar.
"Davy Jacobs was finding his feet when he broke his finger. (Aiden) Blizzard had played three matches so far, one of them was very good, the game here at the Wankhede. He's also finding his feet. We want all our combinations firing as we go into the latter part of the tournament. It's very important," Pollock said.
"Jacobs got a crack in his finger. It's a race against time. We have to be patient, wait and see until he gets full mobility on his finger. Once he gets that he can be back at practice," he added.
The former South African all-rounder did not agree that the team had made a mistake to bat second at Mohali.
"In these eight O'clock games you got to take into consideration the dew factor. The ball comes on nicely in the second innings. The pitch was good right through. I don't think it changed and I think we got ourselves into trouble.
"We lost two wickets up front stumped down the leg side, caught down the leg side and all of a sudden we were three wickets down. That put us under pressure. Some of the shots were not great," Pollock said.
He said to go far in the tournament the batting line-up needs to fire.
"As a team we have done well batting first but if you want to go far in the tournament you have to win batting first or second," he pointed out.
On the lack of runs for key all-rounders Kieron Pollard and Andrew Symonds, Pollock said they were ready to fire in the last stages of the tournament.
"It's exciting they have not fired as you are saying. It means it's still coming. In the important part of the tournament there's a good chance they will. That's how we are looking at it," he said.
Pollock also backed the Indian selectors for not having chosen players for the upcoming tour of the West Indies, who had done exceedingly well in the IPL without having past experience.
"If you are looking for someone who has not played for India, selecting him on T20 performance it would not work for me. But I am not a selector for India but I can understand if they do that.
"IPL is fantastic for Indian cricket, gets you best coaches, best medical staff. Gets the young guys exposed playing against international players. But 20 over cricket is different from 50 over cricket," he said.
"You can play with freedom in 20 over cricket. You don't have to take responsibility all the time. You can come in and play your shots.
"I'm sure they would have taken it into consideration. As world champions, why would you want to make any changes? You have got a good side," he remarked.
Two top IPL performers, MI's Ambati Rayudu and Pune Warriors' Rahul Sharma did not get the selectors' nod on Friday for the West Indies tour.