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MI spinner lauds young skipper’s nonchalant approach
By Harsh Kalan
Kolkata 27 May 2013
Throughout the season, Mumbai Indians’ skipper, Rohit Sharma, has marshaled his troops like a veteran. In just his first full-time leadership role at the top level, the 26-year-old managed the array of world-class bowlers at his disposal with aplomb. This was especially evident when he brought in Pragyan Ojha in the middle overs to decisively tilt the IPL 2013 Final in MI’s favour.
The left-arm spinner repaid his skipper’s faith with the wicket of Albie Morkel, thereby neutralising the potential threat of the South African all-rounder mounting a comeback with the hard-hitting MS Dhoni.
“I think it was a very crucial wicket as these two guys (Morkel and Dhoni) would have made a lot of difference and getting them out at a crunch time was extremely vital,” Ojha said.
The spinner credited his captain for such well-timed bowling changes and tactics, which saw MI win their maiden IPL title. “I think Rohit is very calm. He knows what to do and he does not react much. So, he is very good while managing things on the field. And most importantly, he is a bowlers’ captain,” said Ojha while lauding Sharma’s calculated approach.
However, Ojha also played a crucial role with the bat in the final when he somehow managed to hand Kieron Pollard the strike with two balls left in the MI innings. Just when it seemed like Dwayne Bravo was destined to bowl a magical last over, Pollard struck him for two massive sixes that took MI’s total to a challenging 148.
“When I came to bat, I just kept thinking that I have to give Pollard a single because in two balls you never know what happens. And then after I took the single, he got those 12 runs and it made a big difference,” Ojha said.
Meanwhile, he also lauded the entire MI set-up for gelling well throughout IPL 2013. “It was an outstanding season. We played like a team. Everyone was backing each other; everyone trusted one another’s abilities. And this season was special right from the start.
“And in a big game like this when two of the best sides are playing and you want to be the better team, you have got to play as a unit and back each other. That is because this game is played with 11 players,” he said.
Ojha was also thrilled to win his second IPL title – his first one came back in 2009 with the Deccan Chargers. “I am lucky enough to be part of a winning side twice. The feeling is just awesome. And to do it in front of the Eden Gardens crowd, nothing can be better than that,” Ojha said.
He cheered every wicket when the Chennai Super Kings were batting. WhenMumbai Indians’ win was a ball away, he was the first one to jump off his seat in the dugout and jump onto the field to celebrate with his victorious team-mates.
Even while talking to IPLT20.com after the match, he kept looking at the trophy. Finally, pointing towards it, he said, “I can’t wait to get my hands on that trophy”!
After spending 23 years playing cricket at the highest level, accumulating almost every individual batting record in the sport, being part of world’s No.1 Test team and winning the ODI World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar remains a wide-eyed cricket lover.
The enthusiasm of the 40-year-old is so genuine, it can make some of his awestruck teenage fans look jaded.
Excerpts from our chat with him:
What does this moment mean to you?
I have waited for this for six years and six years is a long time. But it’s never too late. This has been an outstanding season for us; we have thoroughly enjoyed every moment with each other. It’s been really solid. The goal for this season was to win the trophy and I am glad that we have been able to do that.
You were the captain when MI last reached the IPL final in 2010. Was this like déjà vu for you?
It was good to reach the final but this year we made it till the end. Whoever is the captain, it doesn’t matter as long as we lift the trophy. That is what you play for and Sunday was that moment. It’s a different feeling to get your hands on that trophy and I can’t wait to celebrate with the team. We’ve really worked hard for it. After two and a half months of sheer hard work we have been able to win this trophy ours. It’s a wonderful feeling.
With the likes of John Wright, Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting coming in, did it take a bit of pressure off you as far as mentoring was concerned?
Yes, it helps having such great former players working with the team and guiding them. Even earlier we had some good leaders and this year has been fantastic. As far as my pressure goes, it is always there (smiles). I’m always under pressure to go out and deliver, irrespective of whether I am a captain or just another player. You have your expectations and you want to do your best. You want to deliver at every occasion.
What do two greatest batsmen of their era talk to each other when they play for the same team?
(Laughs). Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time together batting in the middle and I would have loved to do that. I knew Ricky a bit before the IPL, sitting in the opposition tent. Here we sat in the same tent. We have spent some quality time with each other in the evenings, having casual dinners and during the pre and post-match discussions. It’s really worked well and he is a fantastic guy.
Has he brought that Australian-ness with him in the team?
He has. We have got guys from West Indies, New Zealand and all over the world. Even from India we have guys from all parts of the country. We have been lucky to have developed a strong bonding between different cultures and that brings the best in us.