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It is hard to recall a Mumbai Indians victory without a significant contribution from Lasith Malinga. Such has been the impact of the slinger from Sri Lanka. The opening match of IPL 2012 was no exception. The yorker specialist once again lived up to his reputation as MI defeated the Chennai Super Kings in their own backyard.
However, true to his policy of keeping it simple, Malinga played down the act of defeating the defending champions on their home ground.
“We went into the ground focusing on our strengths and our capabilities and tried to give our best. We were not thinking about who the opposition was,” Malinga said with typical nonchalance in his exclusive chat with iplt20.com after the comprehensive eight-wicket win in Chennai.
Malinga was the pioneer of MI’s inspirational triumph in the 2011 CLT20, being the highest wicket-taker for his team in that tournament. The final was played on this very ground – the Chepauk – and Malinga picked up two crucial wickets in that game.
He reminisced those moments with pride and was happy to replicate his performance in the IPL season opener, on a wicket that has become more conducive to seam bowling than it was last September. “During the Champions League T20 there was a bit of turn in the wicket, but this time there isn’t much turn. It seems to have much more for the pacers,” he said.
While Malinga has been the spearhead of the MI bowling attack over the past seasons, this time he is in august company of two fellow former purple cap holders – RP Singh and Pragyan Ojha. Malinga believes MI has one of the most formidable bowling line-ups in the tournament. “We have a good bowling attack. Both RP and Ojha are very experienced and have taken a lot of wickets in the IPL,” he said.
Two world-class spinners, in Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha, supporting him at the other end on spin-friendly Indian tracks should have taken some pressure off him. Instead, the inimitable Sri Lankan pacer wants to be a shield to the spinners. “We all have to take responsibility. I bowl to take wickets and make the job easier for the spinners later on,” Malinga said.
With Sachin Tendulkar passing on the captaincy to Harbhajan Singh, for IPL 2012, MI has become one of the teams that are led by a bowler. Malinga said it helps when the captain understands the bowler’s mind. “Bhajji [Harbhajan Singh] knows my strengths and even I know what I can do. We always discuss about fields when I bowl. He is a good captain,” he said.
Amitabh Bachchan mesmerised one and all with his baritone voice and powerful expressions as he recited a poem on cricket at the DLF IPL Opening Nite in Chennai. The words of the poem were not short of passion and emotion. But it was the magic of Big B’s persona that enthralled the audiences and gave the listeners the goose bumps.
After gracing the stage, the Shahenshah of the Hindi film industry took time off for a delightful chat with iplt20.com. An ardent cricket lover, Mr. Bachchan shared his thoughts on the IPL. He spoke about his friendship with Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, and revealed how he celebrated India’s World Cup with the crowds in the streets of Mumbai.
What are your thoughts on the poem that you recited at the beginning of the event?
It was written by Hindi film lyricist Prasoon Joshi. He wrote it specially for the IPL. I liked the tenor of sentiments expressed in the poem. It is a sentiment we all garner inside us; at some point of time, we all want to be a part of the game. I thought Prasoon had caught the essence of it in his words that said that if I were to be born again, make me the bat, the ball, the grass in the field. It was beautifully put. I was very privileged to be a part of this event.
What is the best thing about the IPL?
I really like the fact that an opportunity is provided to youngsters to come up from smaller towns. There was a time when the Indian cricket team was primarily out of the Shivaji Park in Mumbai. But in the current team there’s only one. Most of the others have come from the small cities. A tournament like IPL gives that opportunity to them to showcase their talent and then move their way up to the national team.
Which cricketer do you admire the most?
Sunil Gavaskar. We’ve been very close friends since a long time now, although we don’t meet as often as we should. In recent times, it’s Sachin Tendulkar, who is again a great family friend. They’ve always been such humble human beings despite the great achievements behind them. It’s such a joy to spend time with them and see them perform with their extraordinary talent.
Could you elaborate a bit on your relationship with Gavaskar and Tendulkar?
Sunil and I always wish each other on birthdays, no matter in which corner of the world we are. It’s another matter that most of the time I can’t trace him and hence leave him messages. Sachin is just like family. He just drops by to our home whenever he gets the time. He stayed in the same building as Ashwariya did and the two were great friends. Even now we’ve continued the relationship. Sachin has always been a great admirer of my work. Every time I do a film, I ask him if he wants me to arrange a screening for him. And every now and then he surprises me by saying, ‘sir, I’ve already watched it. I couldn’t wait for you to arrange it for me’. I send him messages every time he does something great on the cricket field – which he keeps doing every other day – and he always makes it a point to respond back. You’ve often shown your admiration towards MS Dhoni. What do you like about him?
I think Dhoni is a huge boon to Indian Cricket. In today’s time, Indian team is lucky to have someone like him who’s so calm and collected. I also think he has a great cricketing mind. He has this effect on the whole team where even in the most dire straits, with him still around, you get a feeling that everything will be alright. And he also goes on to prove the same. He’ll come when the team is in a bad shape and just turn things around.
What kind of rapport do you share with Dhoni?
Earlier, I didn’t know that he watches my films. One day I was shooting in Mumbai and he just walked in on the set. We’ve tried to remain in touch since then; but given the hectic life, I’m meeting him now [during the IPL Opening Nite] after that day. There’s this funny thing that happened. I kept messaging him on special occasions, whether he’s getting married or getting a Padma Award or winning the World Cup. But I never got a response from him and I wondered why. Then someone told me that somebody used to play a prank on him by texting using some famous person’s name. So, he was very cautious every time I messaged him, thinking it was a prank. But now we’ve cleared things off and I’ve told him, ‘next time you’re in Mumbai, you must come over’. What’s your favourite cricketing moment?
The 2011 World Cup victory! The moment Dhoni scored the winning six, Abhishek, Ashwariya and me just got into our car and hit the streets. It was wild out there; I’ve never seen Mumbai like this. Everybody was out on the streets, waving the national flag, shouting, whistling, elated with joy. I said, we must go and join them. We sat on the roof of our car, I was driving and sticking my neck out of the window and we drove around. I hadn’t done that for a very, very long time, but it was a moment that deserved something like this. It was a fantastic moment; just to be with the people in the streets and share their joy and happiness has to be one of the greatest moments I’ve experienced when it comes to cricket. I’m very proud of the Indian cricket team. I think we have done exceptionally well and I’m sure [we] will continue to do so.