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Prajakta Pawar in Delhi 20 May 2013 - 07:46pm IST

Need to up the ante: Rohit Sharma

Captaincy has helped and it came as no surprise

It is set to be a mouth-watering contest between the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings at the Feroze Shah Kotla when they take each on other in the first Playoff of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013. Both the teams finished the league phase with 22 points each, the run-rate deciding their position on the points table.

While speaking to the media ahead of practice in the hot Delhi weather, MI’s stand-in skipper, Rohit Sharma indicated that it will be an even contest on Tuesday evening.

Asked about the big clash against the MS Dhoni-led side, who have more experience of playing in the Playoffs and the high pressure situation, he said, “We have no doubts they are a good team. I am sure if we can play consistent cricket it will help us. We just need to up whatever we have been doing by ten percent. We have beaten them in the league phases in both games, so obviously, the pressure will be on them.
“We’ve got to go out and do what we have been doing so far. I am sure that if we can stick together, get the things right on the field it will certainly help us.”

Besides Sharma himself, the team has had many different players perform on different occasions and have clicked as a unit to take them across the line. Australian pacer, Mitchell Johnson has been one of their key players in the tournament so far. Speaking about his contribution, Sharma said, “He has been brilliant. He has been getting those early breakthroughs for us which is very important in this format. If he can continue what he has been doing, it will really be great. He has got the experience, and he has been doing it for Australia for so many years. It is not surprising what he has been doing. 

Former MI captain, Harbhajan Singh too has played a key role in the Mumbai franchise’s fortunes. Discussing the contribution of the ‘Turbanator’ and the team, he said, “Along with Mitchell Johnson Harbhajan is probably in the top ten I guess along with Pragyan Ojha. I actually cannot single out anyone here. It has been a real team effort. You have seen Lasith Malinga chipping in, in the last two-three games. Ojha has been brilliant for us.

“Whenever our fifth bowler has come in; they have got wickets. Dhawal Kulkarni played in Mumbai and got two wickets, Pawan Suyal played against CSK and got one wicket. So the fifth bowlers is not a problem for us. All the four bowlers that we have been playing have been fantastic. They have been getting wickets regularly, especially Bhajji has been fantastic. Getting 19 wickets in the tournament is something good. His bowling has certainly helped us reaching here and his batting too. He has gone in at the later part of the game got us through a couple of times. We are looking forward to Harbhajan Singh contributing in terms of batting and bowling as well.”

The youngster himself has led from the front and amassed 526 runs from 16 games. Speaking about the responsibility of leading the team, Sharma said, “When it came to me it was a huge challenge but I was ready. It didn’t come to me as a surprise because over the last two years I have been the vice-captain so I was in the loop of taking that responsibility. And yes, it came at the right time and I feel it has certainly helped my batting a lot. I am understanding the game more than what I used to, and it is really reflecting and I am very happy the way things have gone so far.”

Asked how he has managed to keep his team focused despite matters that have been unfolding off the field, Sharma said, “Everybody here is a professional cricketer. We have got a more important job here than to think other issues. We are here on a mission and we certainly don’t want to get distracted by what is happening. We have got big job on our hands, to win the Trophy. So we are all concentrating on what we need to do, the planning, the strategy and stuff like that.”

While the team has moved from strength to strength, the fitness of Sachin Tendulkar has kept him out of the last two league games. Speaking about Tendulkar’s fitness and his availability for the game, he said, “We don’t know yet, we are going to take a call on Tuesday.

Discussing the team’s away record, which has not been as great as their record at home, the Wankhede Stadium, and if it would have an implication on playing the Playoff at the Kotla, Sharma insisted the team needed to play good cricket to win games. Elaborating, he said, “I don’t believe in the home and away thing because at the end of the day you have to play good cricket and as I said if we can up the ante by ten percent in whatever we have been doing, batting bowling and fielding I am sure that the results will fall in place. And CSK too will be playing away and I don’t think they have a good away record as well. So it has been the same for both the teams. There will not be home or crowd advantage for any of the games. So at the end of the day we have to play good cricket to win the game.

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