HITMAN TO THE FORE
Rohit Sharma’s 94 vs RCB in Mumbai on April 17
You know Rohit Sharma is in form when he leans forward to a good-length ball and drives it through the covers in imperious fashion. Chris Woakes was at the receiving end of this as Mumbai dugout breathed a sigh of relief after being reduced to 0/2 in 0.2 overs. Sharma had a point to prove as he had scored just 44 runs in the first three games, each of which Mumbai Indians lost. He averted the hat-trick ball with an attempted late flick, countered the early swing and decided to bat on and on. Sharma held one end up even as the big-hitting Evin Lewis counter-attacked from the other. The duo saw off the new ball, stepped on the gas and brought us back on track with a steady partnership. By the time Lewis raced away to his maiden fifty in the tournament, Sharma was on 23 off 19. When Corey Anderson came to bowl his first over of the game, Sharma sensed an opportunity. Anderson’s pace was never going to trouble Sharma on a wicket that was now playing true. An elegant loft over covers was followed by a slap through the same region. Lewis’s departure brought an end to the 108-run stand. Krunal Pandya then joined forces with the captain, who was up against Umesh Yadav. It was Yadav who caused MI trouble in the first over. This time, he dropped short and Sharma followed with a nonchalant pull over square-leg. The next ball was dispatched to the third-man fence as Sharma announced his return to form with a 32-ball half-century. He was in no mood to rest, though. He took control, batted till the last over and spared nobody. Mohammed Siraj and Anderson were smashed to all parts of the ground. But all good things come to an end. Sharma departed for a valiant 94 as Mumbai posted 213/6 before defending it with ease. It was our first win of the season.
WRISTY YADAV MAKES MERRY
Suryakumar Yadav’s 72 vs Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur on April 22
The first of his trademark flicks came in this match. This was perhaps, Suryakumar Yadav’s breakthrough season. The management asked him to open and ‘SKY’ responded in style. Facing Rajasthan Royals at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, MI lost Lewis for a golden duck before SKY and Ishan Kishan resurrected the innings. Yadav mixed caution with aggression, played the ball on merit and punished the loose ones with authority. A tossed-up ball wide outside off from K Gowtham was smashed over the cover fence as Yadav reached his half-century in style. Fifty of the first 84 runs on the board came off his willow. Yadav’s wrist-work is extremely impactful. The difference is that he can time the ball better than the rest. A Ben Stokes full-toss was whipped in similar fashion before he received a life on 55. Yadav added 17 more runs before his fine 72 came to an end. We finished second-best in that game but a knock full of wristy flicks, crisp drives and deft touches left us asking for more.
Ishan Kishan’s 62 vs Kolkata Knight Riders in Kolkata on May 9
First up, a flipper from Kuldeep Yadav went straight through Ishan Kishan’s defences. He played for the wrong ’un but the ball straightened and just missed his off-stump. Kishan looked clueless. But he did not hold back. He muscled the next ball over mid-wicket. By the time Yadav returned to bowl the next over, Kishan was sitting pretty on 32 off just 14 balls. What followed next change the course of the game. Kishan carted Yadav for four consecutive sixes — a sweep over deep square-leg, a massive slog over mid-wicket, a flat-batted hit over long-on and a Dhoni-esque helicopter shot over cow corner. He crossed the 50-run mark off just 17 deliveries, the joint-fastest for MI. He then hit Sunil Narine for a six in the next over before falling for 62 off only 21 balls. Skipper Rohit Sharma used his bat to pat Kishan on the helmet even as the Eden Gardens rose in unison to applaud a special knock. KKR never recovered from this blow, going on lose the match by 102 runs.
LEWIS GOES ON THE ATTACK
Evin Lewis’s 60 vs Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai on May 13
Close your eyes. Now, picture a left-handed batsman standing firm and driving an over-pitched ball through the covers. Evin Lewis did that umpteen number of times this season. Against Rajasthan Royals at Wankhede Stadium, the Trinidadian played a similar shot to the right of extra-cover to hit his first boundary of the evening. The big hitter was given a life when Stuart Binny dropped him on five. And Lewis never looked back. Instead, he went berserk in the ninth over by smashing Shreyas Gopal for two successive sixes. A flat sweep over deep square-leg and a monstrous hit straight down the ground got him, and the crowd, going. MI lost Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit Sharma off successive balls, but Lewis kept at it. A six that went to hit the glass facade of the press box took him to his second fifty in the tournament. Before being dismissed for 60, Lewis silenced his critics besides roaring back into form. MI couldn’t take advantage of the start he provided as a masterclass from Jos Buttler took RR home.
POLLARD SHOWS THE LIGHT
Kieron Pollard’s 50 vs Kings XI Punjab in Mumbai on May 16
With MI reduced to 71/4, a misfiring Kieron Pollard stepped out to not only help the team rebuild, but also lift us to a match-winning total at Wankhede Stadium. A string of low scores forced the team management to bench Pollard, one of our most trusted men, from the playing XI before he was drafted in against Kings XI Punjab in a must-win tie. Pollard never shies away from expressing his emotions. That very night, he was all focus and intensity. Along with Krunal Pandya, he kept the scoreboard ticking with minimal risk. He warmed up by slogging Axar Patel over mid-wicket before taking on Ankit Rajpoot. A six over wide long-off in Marcus Stoinis’s over saw him to get his fifty off only 22 balls. He fist-pumped the dressing from the centre of the pitch. It showed what the knock meant to him.