A few days after Mumbai Indians (MI) were thrashed by Rising Pune Supergiants (RPSG) in front of their home crowd at Wankhede stadium, skipper Rohit Sharma said his side had it in them to bounce back in the tournament, given that they were familiar with the art of winning trophies.
His words turned out to be prophetic, after his side produced a resurgent show with the bat to beat Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) by six wickets in the latter's den at Eden Gardens on Wednesday.
As Mumbai got on to the points tally for the Indian Premier League 2016 tournament, it was only fitting that Rohit the batsman hogged the limelight, anchoring his side's chase of the 188-run target with an unbeaten 84 off 54 balls, embellished with 10 fours and two sixes.
The victory could not have come at a better time, following the Bombay High Court verdict in favour of shifting all matches out of Maharashtra in the month of May. Mumbai fans, left shattered at the prospect of not being able to cheer for their team, would feel better knowing their team's IPL campaign is at least back on track with this resounding win.
There were several factors that contributed to Mumbai’s win — from skipper Rohit asking KKR to bat first, thereby making up for his error in judgment that resulted in the opening day defeat, to tweaking with the batting order that helped them chase down the steep-looking target with ease.
Chasing 188, Rohit, with Parthiv Patel (who replaced Lendl Simmons at the top of the order) had a rollicking start. Hard-hitting England wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler, whose services were hired for a hefty sum of Rs 3.8 crore, repayed the faith of his investors with a blazing 41 off 22 deliveries, studded with three sixes and as many fours. Much like the team that he is currently representing, Buttler too recorded a resounding return to form after being dismissed for a two-ball duck in the previous game.
But it would be Rohit's glorious return to form that is the talk of the town, especially since plenty of questions were asked about the opening batsman's poor run with the bat dating back to the World T20 and his continued occupancy of the top of the order. This innings will help restore the captain's confidence and also restore the team morale.
However, amidst all the champagne popping, the contribution of one individual has not been celebrated as much as it deserved. While experts would be busy discussing the exploits of Rohit and Buttler, not many would have realised that it was Mitchell McClenaghan's economic spell with the ball followed by a potent cameo with the bat that helped set up the win for the visitors.
The New Zealand all-rounder was responsible for the side’s success in quite a few games in the previous edition of the tournament as well. Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, for instance, the third match of IPL 8, McClenaghan showed plenty of promise to team up with pace spearhead Lasith Malinga to demolish SRH, leading his side to a 20-run win.
He followed it up with more match-winning performances, including a 3/31 against Rajasthan Royals that helped them win a game that was virtually out of their grasp. More three-wicket hauls followed, including another special performance against SRH as well as in the final against Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Mumbai's bowling seemed to be in safe hands with Malinga and McClenaghan as the new-ball pair.
The Auckland Aces cricketer had a mixed run in the World T20, a tournament that was largely dominated by the spinners. While he got hit against Pakistan and England, he helped the Black Caps outrun trans-tasman rivals Australia at Dharamsala.
Coming into the IPL, McClenaghan’s role in the side only grew more important due to the absence of Malinga due to a knee injury. After going wicketless against Rising Pune Supergiants in the tournament opener, McClenaghan's performance in the second game has helped the captain-coach duo of Rohit and Ricky Ponting realise the southpaw's utility. He has also assumed the role of the leader of the bowling unit in the absence of Malinga, who has cherished this role for seven years now, while being the all-time leading wicket-taker in the tournament.
Fellow Kiwi Tim Southee has just arrived in the Mumbai Indians set-up and only got to play his first game since March. Marchant de Lange too has not had many recent appearances to talk of, and Jasprit Bumrah still has some distance to clear before he can challenge the New Zealand paceman for the role.
Moreover, if his bowling exploits were not impressive enough, McClenaghan's pinch-hitting efforts, which fetched him 20 runs off just eight balls, including three massive sixes, has helped add more depth to Mumbai's formidable batting.
It was a brilliant move on the part of the team to promote him, as it helped ease the pressure off Rohit's shoulders following Hardik Pandya's early dismissal. His big hits played the catalyst in reducing the required run-rate, with Buttler coming in next to help finish the job with the captain.
In the end, McClenaghan's role in the second game may not be as celebrated as that of his captain. But the fact that his contributions played an integral role in the win cannot be denied, and now all eyes will be trained on him in both essays of Mumbai's next match against Gujarat Lions at the Wankhede on Saturday.
While McClenaghan turned out to be the ideal bowling partner for Malinga in the previous edition, he perhaps could go a step further ahead should he produce a few more of such performances. Rohit had marked Malinga's absence from the side as an ideal opportunity for Bumrah. Maybe someone else is fast grabbing the opportunity before he does.