Rohit, Bumrah, teamwork: 3 reasons for Mumbai Indians' upward climb on the IPL ladder

A little over a week ago, Mumbai Indians seemed dead and buried after a 10-run loss to Delhi Daredevils at the Feroz Shah Kotla. With four defeats in six games, the defending champions found themselves in a dark tunnel with no opening ahead of them. But a week later, Mumbai have stormed their way to second position on the points table, having crushed the hapless Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) by eight wickets with more than an over to spare. When the going got tough in the ninth edition of the IPL, Mumbai Indians have got themselves going.

Sunday's performance against the MS Dhoni-led Pune completes three consecutive wins for the side, and reflects the supreme confidence they are oozing at the moment. The two-time title winners have rediscovered their mojo, and have built a momentum that they do not seem to be letting go of anytime soon.

Mumbai Indians players celebrate a wicket. BCCI

Mumbai Indians players celebrate a wicket. BCCI

The toss did play a factor for skipper Rohit Sharma, who opted to bowl and fielded an unchanged side from the previous games, indicating a settled frame of mind from both the captain and the team management. However, the team has shown great improvement on every front, and each passing game that once again puts them at the fore for retaining the gold at the end of the tournament.

The Mumbai-Pune match was significant for others reasons as well — the Maharashtra derby played on Maharashtra Day in the last match hosted in the state. If he hadn't done it already, Rohit has now established himself as the backbone of the Mumbai batting line-up with another successful chase.

It also shows the bowling unit's ability to make comebacks at any stage of the game. After nearly getting hammered out of the game by the second-wicket pair of Steve Smith and Saurabh Tiwary, Jasprit Bumrah's breakthroughs and economical bowling by Mitchell McClenaghan and Harbhajan Singh ensured Pune were reduced to a score that was below par for the track. Let us take a look at the three aspects of the game that defined Mumbai’s fifth victory in nine games:

Bumrah's key breakthroughs: Pune made a superb recovery after losing the crucial wicket of the in-form Ajinkya Rahane early in their innings. Smith and Tiwary responded brilliantly to the situation, propelling their side to 84 in just eight overs thanks to some brutal hitting all over the park. It took some clever bowling by Bumrah, angling a short delivery towards Smith that cramped him for room and made him edge the delivery to the wicketkeeper, for Mumbai to swing the pendulum in its favour.

Ranchi boys Tiwary and Dhoni then added steady runs to the total, though they were not able to flex their arms freely due to tight bowling from Harbhajan Singh in the middle overs. Bumrah cashed in on their growing restlessness in the death stages, and sent the duo back to the dug-out before they could break loose. The battle was half-won for Mumbai after the bowling unit restricted them to 159. Bumrah, who has been seen as somewhat of a yorker and a death-overs specialist in recent times, continues to grow by leaps and bounds with each passing game. McClenaghan and Bumrah are the top two wicket-takers in the league at present — an indicator of how the bowling unit is functioning like a well-oiled machine.

Yet another kill for the 'Hitman': Words fail to do justice to the impact Rohit Sharma has had on Mumbai's campaign so far. People keep questioning Rohit's consistency from time to time. But does he shut his critics up in style when he does rediscover his form! Rohit never took the centrestage throughout this innings. The burden of getting the runs was not on his shoulders alone. Parthiv Patel got off to yet another good start before perishing prematurely, and Ambati Rayudu supported him with hits all over the ground in the first two partnerships of the innings, helping ease the pressure both on the team as well as on their captain.

Jos Buttler's unbeaten cameo helped finish things off, and the England wicketkeeper-batsman showed a brute side of him that is yet to unveil itself on a consistent basis in the tournament. And yet, Rohit was miles ahead of the other batsmen with an unbeaten 85 off 60 balls with eight hits towards the boundary rope and three over it. While the others chipped in with their contributions, he was the anchor in the chase, holding the innings steadily together, and taking the pressure off with boundaries at regular intervals. It was only fitting for him to end the match and put Pune out of their misery with a massive hit off a slog sweep over deep square-leg.

While Parthiv, Buttler, Pollard and Krunal Pandya have all had their moments with the bat, none is anywhere close to Rohit at the moment. The way the batting unit has been functioning, showing greater depth than ever and giving Rohit the kind of support he needs in his knocks — and even doing the job in the event of his failure — holds the team in good stead.

Team spirit: Aside from strong individual innings from Rohit and Steve Smith, the match will be remembered for another reason — perhaps not the most pleasant one. Throughout its history, the IPL has always given its fans several moments which have stayed in our memories. Sunday got its own such moment when Ambati Rayudu and Harbhajan Singh engaged in an exchange of tempers.

The Bhajji-Rayudu clash will perhaps turn out to be one of the most-watched clips from the ninth edition of the league — given how the masses are hungry for controversial, TRP-generating masaledaar stuff. However, there was more to the clash than the usual breathing of fire from the concerned parties.

Rayudu failed to stop the ball from touching the boundary rope at long-on after Tiwary hammered a shot straight down the ground. And it wasn't like he was being slack in the deep — it was a pretty good dive, and would have saved vital runs had the ball not bounced out of his hand. And although he earned a pat on the back from Southee, who ran in from the other side, an infuriated Bhajji lashed out at him for his perceived failure. Harbhajan's reaction in turn prompted Rayudu to act angrily as well, and was furious even after the veteran off-spinner came down the track in an apparent attempt to console him. In the end, the whole affair turned out to be much ado about nothing, a scene that was completely unnecessary from both parties.

It is quite common for such incidents to occur in the heat of the moment. Sachin Tendulkar had lashed out at VVS Laxman during the 'sandstorm' innings two decades ago. VVS returned the favour, but to Pragyan Ojha at Mohali in 2010. These two are only among the most well-remembered but there are countless such incidences in sport. What matters in the end is preservation of the team spirit afterwards. Bhajji and Rayudu later hugged and celebrated the dismissal of Peter Handscomb, as revealed by Rohit during the presentation ceremony. As long as the team spirit is alive, and players are there to support and back each other at any given point of time, there is little to worry for the team.

A positive team spirit is perhaps the core foundation of champion sides, as was the case with the Clive Lloyd-led West Indies of the 1970s. A negative atmosphere in the team, even if it is among a few individuals, can lead to the failure of even the most star-studded sides. The Indian squad that crashed out of the 2007 World Cup in the group stage would concur with the notion.

Updated Date: May 02, 2016 17:13 PM

Also See