No matter how much a captain convinces himself that his team was in the game till the final over only to end up on the wrong side during those crunch moments, losing close games can be demoralising after a point. At the end of the day, all it means is: two points lost.
Keeping this and the win-loss ratio in mind, which read 1/5, Mumbai Indians had set themselves an aim to resurrect their season ahead of their clash against Chennai Super Kings.
Mumbai Indians batting coach Robin Singh revealed in a chat after Rohit Sharma and Co registered their second win of the season that the message given to the players after the embarrassing loss against Sunrisers Hyderabad was to 'treat every game as a playoff.'
IPL teams have adopted this mindset in the past as well. But it can be tricky because every game becomes a high-pressure match. However, Mumbai Indians were having none of that and handled the situation beautifully.
Mumbai made a horrid start to the match. Chennai were cruising at 91/1 at the halfway mark of the first innings. Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina were going all guns blazing. 200 seemed like a foregone conclusion but subtle bowling changes from Rohit restricted them to 169/5.
It is an open secret that Jasprit Bumrah has troubled MS Dhoni in T20s. Sensing the opportunity to dismiss Dhoni early, Rohit brought his mainstay Bumrah back into the attack in the 13th over, even though the run rate was under control. Dhoni being Dhoni understood the plan and played out four dots in the over. Even Krunal Pandya slipped in a quiet over from the other end. Those two overs meant that CSK had to score 94 in the final six overs to go past 200-run mark – a hard task nine out of ten times.
Even the momentum of the match had shifted. Having said that, Mumbai's bowling has not been the problem this season. Their batting though has been quite disappointing.
However, Suryakumar Yadav, despite his partner Evin Lewis' struggle, set a perfect platform for Rohit and Co. So much so that it allowed Rohit to walk in at No 3, a luxury he could afford to take because the match situation demanded it. From there on, it was always going to be the 'Hitman's' game.
The circumstances were tailor-made. Mixing caution with aggression, Rohit kickstarted his innings typically. He consumed a few dots before taking the attack to Shane Watson in the 14th over. Two ridiculously good-looking sixes were a good enough indication for CSK that stopping Rohit was going to be extremely difficult.
But CSK were still in it, somehow fighting, keeping Mumbai on their toes.
Promoted up the order after Lewis' departure, Hardik Pandya found one in his arc and dispatched it over long on to make it 15 off 18th over.
Shardul Thakur has been poor in death overs so far and was still trusted by Dhoni to bowl the penultimate over. The decision backfired as his Mumbai teammate Rohit scored four boundaries off six balls; the last one – a sweep over backward square – was the best of the lot.
Those two overs were a strong proof that Mumbai had indeed won the crunch moments. If the 18th over turned the tide of the game, the 19th sealed it for Mumbai Indians. And at the forefront of those big moments was Rohit. His presence underlined his impact in his side's games.
Thanks to this win and a better net run-rate, Mumbai climbed up two spots to sixth on the table. The way Rohit's men absorbed pressure and never let the situation get to them were encouraging signs for the franchise. While there are seven more games to be played, this turnaround was what Mumbai needed. But the question is: will they be able to sustain this performance for seven more 'playoff' games.
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