Mumbai Indians (MI) fans, who were having a torrid time following three defeats in four games, would have enjoyed Wednesday's win over the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), which must have come as a cool gust of wind on their worn faces.
Rohit Sharma's side were playing to the script thus far in the tournament, starting on a poor note yet again. There were plenty of problems afflicting the team, most important of which was the constant shuffling of the batting order that indicated a confused think-tank.
The latest victory, however, is an indicator of a number of positives, and shows that the team is improving on many parameters. Whether it was the skipper leading from the front with the bat, the capturing of key wickets at crucial stages or the form shown by the middle-order.
One might even add the toss and decision to chase, especially given that the team batting second has won on 13 out of 14 occasions in the ongoing tournament. The way this particular trend is being discussed among experts and fans alike, it could very well turn out to be the stuff of legends, something akin to South Africa's infamous relationship with ICC events.
But I digress. Coming back to Mumbai Indians' performance, it was commendable that the side corrected most, if not all, of their mistakes from the previous matches. While there were a few errors on Mumbai's part on Wednesday, such as their death bowling leaking runs, a steady improvement bodes well for the coming matches.
But the biggest takeaway for Mumbai from the match would be the bowling of Krunal Pandya, who picked two wickets. Krunal is the latest Mumbai Indians star in the making, his exploits hitherto overshadowed by younger sibling Hardik, but one with potential match-winning abilities with bat and ball.
Wicketkeeper-batsman KL Rahul, who walked out to bat in place of Chris Gayle (who left for Jamaica following the birth of his first child), provided the impetus at the start of the innings, before Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers combined forces to begin building the foundation for another 200-plus total. However, it was the 11th over, bowled by Krunal, that turned the game on its head.
Kohli came down the track and miscued a hit towards Tim Southee at long-off, before de Villiers was foxed a couple of deliveries later by a ball that turned a little too much for his liking, resulting in him getting stumped. For a young bowler still trying to make his mark in the sport, getting the two biggest superstars of world cricket in the same over is undoubtedly the stuff of dreams, one that would have made him the talk of the town by now, in case he already wasn't.
The quick dismissals hampered RCB's progress, and despite acceleration by Sarfaraz Khan and Travis Head in the latter overs, they failed to cross 200, a total that was absolutely necessary for them if they were to win on a batting paradise like the Wankhede.
However, the act was only half done by then, and Mumbai's batting had to clear doubts that had crept into the minds of their detractors due to their performances in the last two games. With Martin Guptill replaced by Kieron Pollard, Mumbai went back to their old combination of Rohit and Parthiv Patel to open the innings.
It was a familiar start for Patel, who displayed his flair with a boundary in the first over, before top-edging a short ball from Kane Richardson towards point to depart for 5. To add to it, the communication between Rohit and Ambati Rayudu, who walked out to bat at No 3 once again, was completely missing, leading to a couple of near-run-out chances.
However, the way the duo, especially Rohit, settled at the crease thereafter and launched their offensive on the RCB attack was commendable, and helped establish the foundation for Mumbai's successful chase of the somewhat competitive target.
Rohit, with able support from Rayudu, executed his strokes with a touch of dominance which was missing in his performances for the last couple of months barring an unbeaten 84 against Kolkata Knight Riders at his favourite haunt, Eden Gardens.
Although Iqbal Abdulla dismissed the duo in successive overs, the game was never out of MI's grasp and all that was needed to complete the victory was some sensible batting by the middle-order.
Which brings us to the topic of Kieron Pollard. The well-built Trinidadian had missed out on the World T20, and barely performed in the couple of games that he had played in the IPL thus far. The occasion called for the duo to pack a punch, and they quashed any remaining RCB hopes in style.
They began on a sedate note, but it did not take long for Buttler to start tearing the bowlers apart. He got the momentum going with a couple of fours and sixes, letting the big West Indian take his time to get settled in. It was then Pollard's massacre at the end of the chase, remaining unbeaten on 40 off just 19 balls, that ultimately finished the game off. It was a comeback of sorts for Pollard after he missed the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad due to injury, and a much-awaited return to the destructive form that has resulted in many a memorable innings in the blue Mumbai Indians jersey in the past.
Should Buttler and Pollard continue to sparkle in the middle-order like they did on Wednesday, the confidence of the likes of Rohit, Patel and Rayudu would be bolstered at the top of the order. That should lead to a much-improved batting performance, which would then lighten the burden on the bowlers. In other words, that's how the chips fall into place for Mumbai to get their mojo back.
While it's only the second battle that they have won so far and Mumbai Indians have a long war ahead, this win would revive their defence of the title, and their triumph over fellow title-favourites RCB in front of their home crowd will give them the mental boost ahead of their next fixture against Delhi Daredevils, another side that has been rising from the ashes in their last couple of games.
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Updated Date: Apr 21, 2016 15:10:25 IST