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Confidence will be sky high and there will be a lot of positive energy in the Mumbai Indians dressing room after their comprehensive 44 run win against the Delhi Daredevils on Tuesday. Their big guns in Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar might have failed to give them a good start early on in the innings, but they found two young lads; Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma to share the responsibility to help MI register a 200 plus score.
Up next against them is the Pune Warriors India outfit, a team that finally got a win under their belt after 11 straight losses when they trounced Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets on Thursday. Their batsmen went hammer and tongs after the RR bowlers who were left listless, defending a total of 146.
For Mumbai Indians’ pacer Mitchell Johnson, it’s all about slowing down the game when the batsmen are going berserk. “ Look, you have got to find a way to stop them from hitting out, because anyone on a given day can go out there and blast runs very quickly, it’s just how you cope with it,” said Johnson who addressed the media here in Mumbai.
“I guess for me it would be slowing down the game just a touch. As a bowler you can get a bit frustrated at times when the batsmen are after you and as a result, you start rushing back to your mark, wanting to bowl as quickly as possible. At such situations, you need to take a little bit longer to get back to your mark and think about your game a bit more. You’ve still got time in this game, you feel that you have to rush through everything, but you have to take your time, which works,” added the left-arm pacer.
When asked if there might be any changes in the squad considering it’s a day game at the Wankhede, Johnson said, “We are playing well and whatever team is picked will be the best team for the situation. Everyone is doing a good job so far, we have got two wins from the three matches and hopefully we can make it another win in our home ground.”
The previous game at the Wankhede stadium was a run feast. As many as 374 runs were scored in the match and one can expect a cracker of a contest on Saturday. “The Wankhede track is good for batting and good for bowling,” Johnson spoke about the wicket.
“If you missed your mark as a bowler, you can say you will get punished, but if you bowl at good areas, it is quite difficult to score. It will be interesting to see how the wicket will play tomorrow. The wicket played well last time around and hopefully we have yet another good wicket on offer.”
Johnson has played all the three games that the Mumbai Indians have played so far and is at the moment soaking in the love and admiration he has got from all the Mumbai Indians fans. “I have enjoyed it so far. It has been very exciting, very fun, the crowds have been amazing. I came here the other night and was a bit nervous playing in front of such a big crowd that was cheering for you. The feeling is amazing and I am really enjoying it at the moment.”
There was a smile on his face the moment he was asked, as to how it felt playing under his former Australian captain Ricky Ponting. “I guess having Ricky as captain again helps a lot. I have been under his captaincy for a brief period in my career and he knows me pretty well. He can pick up those little things quickly during a tough situation in such a fast game. I am enjoying having Ricky here; it has been good.”
And before signing off, Johnson had a special message. “We are dedicating this game to the under privileged kids as a part of the “Education For All” initiative. It’s a programme that is very close to Ms Nita Ambani’s heart and the team is fully supporting her and looking forward to playing for the kids.”
Sunrisers Hyderabad have caused a few flutters with their performances in Pepsi IPL 2013. Although they go into the match against Delhi Daredevils with a loss they will be drawing on confidence from their two victories earlier in the tournament.
Ahead of their match at the Feroz Shah Kotla, team mentor, former India cricketer VVS Laxman addressed the media and reflected on the team’s prospects and composition.
Asked of the impending game, Laxman told the media, “We are very pleased with the way we started the tournament, winning two games especially against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Hyderabad where it went into the super over. When you win such tight matches it always gives a lot of confidence to the team. In the last match in Bangalore (which the Sunrisers lost) Virat Kohli played a superb knock.”
“We like to concentrate on our game. We don’t think about what Delhi has done in the last few matches. We just want to improve on our own performances. We got a very good side and the combination is excellent with good experienced players and some talented youngsters in the side. We just want to focus on our game and if we can do that I think we will make a mark tomorrow,” he added.
One of the talented youngsters in the side is Hanuma Vihari who played a match winning knock against RCB in Hyderabad. Impressed by the youngster Laxman said, “Vihari is a very good player. He was with India Under 19 team when they won the (Under-19, 2012) World Cup and the maturity he showed in the second game where he played a very important knock on a tough wicket. I think you want to see those kind of knocks from youngsters and yes very best wishes to him.”
Asked if batting was an area of concern for the team, Laxman replied, “I think that the first two games we played on tough batting conditions. If you see, the opposition was not even able to finish. In Bangalore, our third game, we scored 161 runs which is very good.”
“Bowling is definitely our strength without a doubt. We have got the best bowler in world cricket in our side. Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra are bowling well and then you have Thisara Perera, Ashish Reddy who can support them. So bowling is definitely the formidable side to our team but having said that we have got some talented batsman who can win matches on their own. So I think it will be good to see them also realising their potential like the way we did in Bangalore.”
Discussing the team further and the mood in the side he mentioned, “I think the team bonding is excellent. Especially in a tournament like IPL it is critical because you have got players from different parts of the world coming together and playing as a team. So it is important that each one understands his colleague and gels well. The team environment is very good, the support staff is making sure that it is a great team environment where each one enjoys their cricket and I think that’s very important and we are really focusing on doing.”
Laxman, who has been India’s man in a crisis for a long time, said that he advises the youngsters not to be intimidated by the opposition and challenges of maybe facing someone like a Virender Sehwag. “There is no doubt that Sehwag is a dangerous player in all formats of the game and against any opposition he is a dangerous player and we have to accept that. But as a batsman or bowler you are always going to do what you are best at irrespective of the batsman you are bowling or bowler you are facing. I think that’s going to be the case with our players tomorrow. I tell them to bowl to their strength and believe in themselves which is very important. Not to get overawed by the opposition players they are playing against.”
Speaking about Kumar Sangakkara’s leadership, Laxman observed, “He is definitely very positive. He would like to get more runs. We know he is not only the best batsman in the team he is one of the best batsman in world cricket. He has been very good as a leader till now and that is so important. Good, exceptional leaders don’t really carry their skill as a batsman or as a bowler in to their leadership. I think that is very important and Kumar has exhibited that in the three matches. And he has led from the front even though he is not amongst runs. The kind of encouragement he is giving to the youngsters and getting the best out of each and every individual, I think he has been brilliant as a captain till now.” Discussing the top-order further and missing Shikhar Dhawan he said, “Firstly, yes Shikhar was in tremendous form last year. His debut in Mohali was exceptional. So I think he is going to be a major contributor to our team once he comes back. Having said that, Parthiv (Patel) and Akshath (Reddy) have done well (at the top of the order). They played on wickets that were not conducive for stroke play and they had decent partnerships. They would love to convert those starts into big scores which I am hoping will happen tomorrow.”
Giving insight into his own role as mentor, a cloak that he has donned for the first time, Laxman stated, “It is a new role as far as the designation is concerned, as a mentor. I am playing the role for the first time but I have always done this even as a senior player. I have always thought of sharing my experiences with the youngsters. I have learnt a lot from my seniors. Sharing various situations that you were part of and what your thought process was at that point of time. How to handle various situations and how you handle playing top players and how you react to various conditions and situations etc. I think it is great. As a player I was very lucky that the youngsters were receptive to what I told them. It’s always a discussion; it is not that you are dictator. You share certain things about the game and if a youngster can benefit from it, good for them.”