As soon as the ball skied by Raju Bhatkal landed in the safe hands of R Satish at deep mid-on, the MA Chidambaram stadium had erupted with a joyous roar. This not being the home ground of either of the playing teams, the spectators had witnessed the game with unadulterated joy until the last ball, as Mumbai Indians stunned the cricketing world and created history by winning their maiden Champions League T20. The scenario was electric. MI fans were dancing in ecstasy, while the dug-out had gone absolutely delirious. This was one the moments that would forever remain etched in the memory of all cricket enthusiasts.
In a team sport, every team has a story or two to narrate on their journey to tasting success at the global stage. Mumbai Indians too scripted their own fairytale last fortnight.
Even before the tournament got underway, the Mumbai Indians came across as a beleaguered unit, with several of their marquee players, including ace batsman Sachin Tendulkar opting out of the tournament due to injuries. This was a huge setback for MI, both in terms of team strength and morale, and not many reckoned them to be one of the contenders for the title. They entered the competition with a depleted side, to the extent that they were initially allowed by the CLT20 technical committee to field five overseas players in the playing eleven.
After all the early speculation in the media, Harbhajan Singh was appointed as the stand-in skipper. MI’s first test was up against the defending champions Chennai Super Kings in their own backyard. And considering the half-strength squad, pundits had all but written MI off. However, as it transpired, MI snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and upset CSK in a second last ball finish with skipper Harbhajan Singh and Lasith Malinga coming to the side’s rescue.
A similar script awaited MI against T&T, when a strategic last-ball error by opposition skipper Daren Ganga handed MI the game, instead of taking it to the super-over finish that a tie leads to. Despite not performing at their best and the top-order fizzling out rather early, MI had somehow found a way to go through the first two matches and even topped their pool!
When the top-order did fire in the third match against the Cape Cobras at Bangalore, and hopes were up for making it to the semi-finals directly, the match was abandoned due to rough weather after MI’s innings and both the teams ended up sharing a point each.
Suddenly, MI was not certain of a place in the semis! They had to fight another one to seal a place in the semifinals. Worse, their scratchy and inconsistent cricket of the first two matches caught up with them and they lost a crucial tie against NSW, on a dreary wicket at Chennai.
Just when it seemed that MI would lose out on the semifinal spot by a whisker, T&T opened the window for them by defeating the Cobras. And the MI fairly tale would continue.
Going into the semifinals against Somerset, MI had to really elevate their game to march ahead. Opener Aiden Blizzard blasted a quick-fire half-century to put MI on top, and a few flip-flops later, unlikely heroes in the form of R Satish and S K Yadav managed to push MI’s score to 160. Although the bowling remained competitive, the fielding was a bit below-par and part-time keeper Ambati Rayudu’s misery behind the wickets became evident, more so with persistent comments from the box. But Harbhajan Singh once again pulled out a rabbit from the hat by handing the ball to James Franklin to bowl the penultimate over. With the rub of the green going their way, MI booked a place in the finals in a thrilling finish.
MI’s batting see-sawed from the very beginning once again in the finals against RCB. With some effort from Malinga and Yadav toward the end, MI finally managed to crawl to a fighting total of 139. Now, one giant and two disciplined soldiers from the opposition stood between them and the trophy: Chris Gayle, Dilshan and Virat Kohli. Sensing an opportunity, skipper Harbhajan first gave a third over to his ace bowler Malinga to get Dilshan out of the way and then took the onus on himself to remove the mighty Gayle. Thereafter, it was sheer team spirit and some out of the ordinary effort in all departments, as MI bowlers choked the opposition into a meek surrender and went on to clinch the trophy in a handsome fashion.
It was an amazing achievement, considering the obstacles MI had to encounter! To his credit, Captain Courageous Harbhajan Singh led from the front throughout, remained humble and grateful to the powers-that-be. It was a classic example of how team effort won over everything else. As he also repeatedly said, the fact that Sachin Tendulkar sat and cheered the team from the sidelines came in handy for MI.
MI’s success in equal measure must also be ascribed to Man-of-the-Series Lasith Malinga and the squad’s feisty and gutsy youngsters who made all the difference with their energetic approach. Yuzvendra Chahal, Sarul Kanwar, R Satish, S K Yadav and Abu Nechim rose to the occasion when it mattered most. Not to forget Pollard, and others, who came in with complete commitment!
Going by Malinga’s tattoo, “Destiny did say it all.”