We've reached that phase of the IPL where Mumbai Indians make a miraculous recovery following a series of losses. Just like it happened in the last couple of seasons, the defending champions again started poorly but have since turned things around with three wins in their last four games. As much as I do not want to jinx their progress, I cannot help but recognise the marked improvement in the team's performancess in these games.
On Thursday night, they managed to enthrall the Wankhede Stadium crowd one last time this year. The franchise will be playing its home matches at neutral venues following a Bombay High Court order asking the IPL authorities to shift matches out of Maharashtra owing to the drought crisis in the state. They will do so on the back of a six-wicket win that has helped them move to third position on the points table, and give their ongoing campaign a major boost.
Even on Thursday, Mumbai had its share of blips, from a comic fielding performance to the opening pair not clicking again. However, there were several flashes of individual brilliance that helped undo the damage caused by those blips, and eventually result in the team's victory.
Yet another captain's knock from Rohit Sharma, another supporting essay from Ambati Rayudu and a blistering half-century by hard-hitting West Indian Kieron Pollard brought Mumbai to the path of recovery and eventually towards an easy victory.
While Rohit bagged his third man-of-the-match award of the tournament — having done so in all of Mumbai's wins in the tournament save the one against Kings XI Punjab — one cannot help but feel the impact left behind by Pollard with his 17-ball 51, also the fastest half-century by a Mumbai batsman in the history of the tournament.
If Rohit's flamboyant knock held the Mumbai innings, which looked shaky after the early dismissal of wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel, it was Pollard's blitz that made the Kolkata attack look amateur towards the closing stages of the game. The stocky Trinidadian missed out on West Indies' second World T20 victory last month and has been in patchy form in the tournament so far, but is peaking at the right time for his side. The blazing knock also could not have come at a better occasion, given he was making his 100th appearance in the league.
When Mumbai lost the wicket of Jos Buttler, they were 106 for four, and needed Pollard to come good with the bat in order to provide Rohit with the support he needed. The game against Delhi Daredevils saw the MI skipper fighting a lone battle till the last over of the match, eventually falling short by 10 runs. However, Pollard showed that he is back in the business after a temporary hiatus in his usual stand-and-deliver fashion so typical of the West Indian power-hitters.
While Rohit soaked the pressure by rotating the strike with the occasional boundary, Pollard chased the asking rate away with a flurry of fours and sixes. There were quite a few fronts on which Pollard had shown an improvement, including his performance against spin, following his struggles against Delhi Daredevils' leg-spinning pair of Imran Tahir and Amit Mishra in the last match. This time around, he timed the ball to perfection, first off left-arm spinner Shakib Al-Hasan, and was equally merciless on the likes of R Sathish and Jaydev Unadkat.
Pollard has been one of the longest and the most faithful servants for Mumbai Indians since 2010, and has been among the mainstays for the side along with the likes of Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma, etc. His reputation with Mumbai is almost akin to that of Chris Gayle with Royal Challengers Bangalore — one of the first names the strike the mind when it comes to power-hitting.
Even though that image took a bit of a beating with Pollard's lean spell earlier this tournament, his knock against KKR should help restore faith proving that he's returning to form with a bang. A few more such performances by Pollard, along with a little more consistency from Buttler, and Mumbai's middle-order could be secured, especially with Krunal Pandya already firing big-time with both bat and ball. Till then, however, Mumbai better figure out who's the better opening partner for Rohit — Martin Guptill or Parthiv Patel.