MUMBAI: It was a moment that aptly summed up how fired up Rohit Sharma is to win back his place in the Indian team. It also reflected how determined the Mumbai Indians were to get back to winning ways and go top of the points table. They did just that by comfortably beating Kings XI Punjab by 23 runs on Monday at the Wankhede Stadium.
Kings XI Punjab’s David Hussey slogged Munaf Patel towards wide long-off and the ball seemed to be falling in manless territory. Rohit, however, sprinted like a cheetah and swooped on the ball like an eagle, to pull off a memorable catch.
In the context of the game, it was like a nail in the coffin for the Kings XI, for they needed Hussey’s big shots in the pursuit of 160, which looked gettable till then. There was an even more poignant moment a while later, when Andrew Symonds dived forward to pouch Abhishek Nayar off a widish one from Harbhajan Singh.
The Sardar gave an ugly send-off to the struggling Nayar. With only Shaun Marsh showing the stomach for a fight with a brave 61 off 47 balls (8×4), there was no holding back MI as Malinga got his yorkers bang on. Kings XI sensation Paul Valthaty too struggled against this tricky slinger, though he looked to be getting better before being dismissed for 33.
Earlier, powered by identical scores of 51 by Sachin Tendulkar and Ambati Rayudu and some late hitting by Kieron Pollard and Rohit, who took 11 balls each for chipping in with 20 and 18 respectively, the Mumbai Indians rustled up a respectable 159 for 5.
Early in their innings, MI were a bit rattled by a masterstroke from Kings XI skipper Adam Gilchrist. The visitors started the proceedings with two left-arm spinners Bhargav Bhatt and Bipul Sharma who bowled the first and third overs respectively.
It was a tactic that Davy Jacobs succumbed to, but skipper Sachin found a perfect ally in Rayudu as the two forged a 95-run stand in 72 balls to set the stage for a strong finish. Tendulkar, for whom winning back the Orange Cap from Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Virat Kohli was only a matter of time, swept and cut the spinners delightfully. The maestro’s knock came off 45 balls and included three fours and a six. Rayudu played several pleasing strokes too, and took a particularly heavy toll on Praveen Kumar, whom he carted for a six and two fours off consecutive balls in the 12th over. He hit eight fours besides that six, and faced only 37 deliveries in an innings that may have just taken him closer to an India berth.
It was a perfect start to the week for the Mumbai Indians, who now play the Pune Warriors India at Navi Mumbai on Wednesday and then the Delhi Daredevils on Saturday. Tendulkar would hope that both the Orange Cap and the top position stays with MI all along. It has been a year where everything that he has wished for, has come true.
Rohit, meanwhile, would love to keep playing the footage of his ‘special catch’ again and again. It may have given him some bragging rights over Pollard, the side’s best fielder, and fielding coach Jonty Rhodes, without doubt the greatest fielder the game ever saw.