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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.
That RR have had a tough road in the IPL this year is an understatement. Despite all sorts of obstacles, the Rahul Dravid-led side made it to the Playoffs, and even managed to derail the spirited Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator.
However, in Qualifier 2, the Jaipur franchise was unable to trump the mighty Mumbai Indians. While RR’s season may have effectively ended at the Eden Gardens; for local players like Dishant Yagnik, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rahul Dravid was an ‘achievement in itself’.
Yagnik, who kept wickets and even chipped in with valuable runs in the middle order, was all praises for his skipper. The Rajasthan native also lauded the team management for bringing the entire side together like a family and then leading them to a top three finish in IPL 2013. Here are excerpts from Yagnik’s exclusive post-game chat with IPLT20.com:
Tough luck! But all things considered, this has been a good season?
It is all part of the game – winning and losing. But the way we played throughout this tournament was outstanding. The way Rahul Bhai took the team towards this position was really outstanding. All the team players, management, etc, we are more like a family.
You played a brisk knock versus MI that gave RR a competitive total. Tell us about your knock.
It was like a do-or-die situation. This was the right time when I had to deliver, and by God’s grace I was able to execute all the shots. I knew that the wicket was playing out well because I played for a decent amount of time.
What took the game away from RR?
One thing is that if you keep taking wickets, you continue to be in the contest. However, Mumbai Indians’ first-wicket partnership of 70-odd runs was really good. Then, (Dinesh) Karthik and (Dwayne) Smith played well in the middle overs.
Then, suddenly we started getting breakthroughs. But they needed something like 40 off the last four overs and got a couple of big hits, and that changed the tone of the match. Who knows, had we got wickets at that point, we would have been on the winning side.
How was your experience with RR this season?
As I said before, we stick together like a family – more than a family. It never felt like we were under any kind of pressure. Our only philosophy was ‘express yourself’ – just go on the ground and execute your skills without pressure or tension.
As a result, there have been many standout performers for us. Look at Sanju! He is just 18, then there is Stuart Binny. I have played a couple of good innings too.
Rahul Bhai has constantly backed all of us young players. Even Paddy Upton, the support staff and the management backed us a lot. And they never let us feel like we were playing a big match, and made us feel like every match was a regular game. They just encouraged us to express ourselves and told us that the results will follow.
What is the one thing that you will take away from your skipper, Rahul Dravid?
The biggest thing one can learn from Rahul Dravid is his calmness, no matter what the situation on hand is like. Even his supreme work ethic is unlike any other cricketer in the world. Plus, he is so down-to-earth that he treats us juniors with respect too.
From day one he never made me feel like I am from a small town like Banswara. He has always treated me like a younger brother. So, to share the dressing room and the field with him is an achievement in itself.