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Shirin Sadikot in Kolkata 25 May 2013 - 04:35am IST

Kumble’s advice to bowl for wickets worked: Harbhajan

Offie says, could not have asked for better dressing room group

In cricket numbers can be deceptive at times and may not paint the real picture. But in case of Harbhajan Singh’s record this IPL, they tell the true story. Talk of 22 wickets from 18 matches (before the final), at a remarkable 6.59 runs per over and an average of 20.09 – besides making Harbhajan’s best IPL season numerically, the above figures are also a representation of how well the off-spinner has bowled.

In and out of the national team, the veteran spinner needed a little push from the back and a few words from a trusted ally. Enter Anil Kumble. Mumbai Indians’ new team mentor helped his former India spin-twin regain his mojo. All he did was reminded Harbhajan of a quality that made him one of the most successful Indian spinners – bowl for a higher number in the wickets column, not a low number in the runs column. Harbhajan did that and reaped the result.

After accepting his Man-of-the-Match award for 4-0-23-3 in Qualifier 2, against Rajasthan Royals, the MI offie spoke to IPLT20.com., and apart from his bowling, he also spoke about how the new leadership group in the team comprising John Wright (head coach), Kumble (team mentor) and Ricky Ponting (captain) led the team to the IPL final.

This will be the second IPL final for Mumbai Indians after 2010. Big moment?

It’s a big stage for us. The final is just a day after the Qualifier and everything is moving so quickly. This is where we wanted to be as a team because we knew that we had the team to reach the final. Just one more good game and we will get what we have wanted for so long.

What is the biggest reason behind MI’s incredible consistency this season?

I think the big difference is that we have scored lot of runs this year. Most of our batsmen have been in really good form. People like Rohit (Sharma) and Dinesh (Karthik) have been consistent, (Kieron) Pollard has played some brilliant innings and (Dwayne) Smith has been great for us at the top of the order. The bowlers have done alright to back the good batting line-up.

Your bowling has been a seen vast improvement this IPL season. What role as Anil Kumble played in that?

Anil bhai keeps telling me to back myself in whatever situation I bowl and always look to take wickets, even if you go for runs. If you bowl defensively thinking, ‘okay, let me just get away by bowling a six-run over’, it won’t work because the batsman will make up for it in the next over. The key is to always try and make the batsman play differently; make him play the way you want him to. That’s how Anil bhai has made a difference, by always telling us spinners to bowl with intent to pick wickets.

How is it being reunited with your former India coach, John Wright?

It brings back a lot of good, old happy memories. John has been fantastic with MI, as he was with India. He remains a man who doesn’t come out in the limelight and says much, but does his job quietly and nicely.

The leadership group that MI have, it cannot be bettered, can it?

Anil bhai has been brilliant with the team. Ricky has been really good with the youngsters and also when it comes to talking to the team and motivating the team. Add to that list guys like Sachin Tendulkar, Jonty Rhodes and John – what else do you want in a dressing room? Having such an amount of experience in the dressing room makes things easier on the field for us.

What kind of a captain do you think Rohit Sharma is?

He’s done well , he’s only young and still learning the trade. The great sign is that he is learning very quickly. He has taken the responsibility of captaincy on his shoulders and has started to bat really well. I want him to continue in the same vein and if he does so, we might see him lead India one day. These are the guys that should step up and be counted because they will take Team India forward in the future.

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