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The Mumbai Indians registered a convincing win over Rajasthan Royals to stay in contention for a place in Pepsi IPL 2014 Playoffs. A 19-ball 40 by the skipper Rohit Sharma helped set the hosts a challenging target at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad.
The defending champions, who returned winless from the UAE leg, have so far garnered eight points from the India leg and are looking to keep themselves in the race for a spot in the final four. The captain, who led the team to the twin titles – IPL and CLT20 – in 2013 himself is in good form and is looking to keep the team afloat with his prowess. Egged on by the crowd in Ahmedabad, he conjured up another free-flowing knock to set up the game in his team’s favour after they opted to bat first.
After the victory, Rohit analysed the team’s performance in the season so far while speaking to IPLT20.com. He also talked about his batting, leading from the front and importance of staying focused as MI look to win their remaining games.
Excerpts from his interview:
Congrats! Good to have a win under your belt?
Thank you! It is always important and it is a good feeling to win a game. Although the tournament hasn’t gone the way we were hoping, we have to keep everything (losses and negatives) aside and move forward as a team. I know that the squad we have got is a talented one and has a lot of potential. But we were not able to put things together at the start of the tournament. We lost five out of five games in the beginning – that was not acceptable. With a team like this, I wasn’t excepting such a performance. But it happens. We have to move on now. Where do you think MI was not clicking?
I think in every department. Actually, in the first half of the tournament, we were bowling really well, but the batsmen were not stepping up; but now it’s all falling in place. Since we have come to India, we have won four games out of six, which is very good. The batsmen are enjoying a lot more here in India. But we can’t take that as an excuse for not performing in the UAE. If you are a champion side, you are expected to deliver every time you go out on the field. Although things didn’t go our way, we have to now keep moving forward. You never know what can happen; we are still very much in the tournament.
How did it feel to have the Ahmedabad crowd chant your name and back MI?
It was a great feeling. Anywhere we play in India we get a lot of support. It was good to see people cheering for our team. It is always good when people get behind you. It motivates you to perform better.
Given that RR had posted 200-odd runs in their last outing here, what target were you looking to set them when you opted to bat first today?
Looking at their strategy, they like to chase. But we knew that on this wicket, it was never going to be easy because it was turning a lot. It was an absolutely slow wicket. And we have bowlers who can exploit these conditions. So we knew that if we bat first on this wicket, it will be good and we can post a good total. RR had posted 200-plus against the Delhi Daredevils, who could not chase it. So when the wickets are slow and low, it is good to bat first. Then, the pressure is on the opposition to score runs, because when the wicket is turning and keeping low and slow, it is not easy to bat on.
Would you say your late onslaught – 17 runs off the last over – made a lot of difference?
Yes. I have been striking the ball well. It was important for me to stay till the end. Being the captain, the leader of the team, I need to finish off things on a positive note. Kieron Pollard and I know what is required. We have done it many times in similar situations before. I was aware and I was reading the game and which bowler to target and what the bowlers are bowling at, etc. All this was going on in my mind. Not many overs were left when I went in to bat, so I had to go after the bowling from the start. We read the conditions here really well. Posting 178-odd runs on this wicket is never easy, because as you saw, the wicket was turning and it wasn’t easy to hit the ball. I am really happy with the way we batted today.
Personally, you have been amongst the runs. What would you say about your batting efforts?
I am happy with the way I am batting. But as a batting unit, we need to pull our socks up a bit and perform even better.
It must feel good to see Michael Hussey get runs?
Yes, absolutely! He is a genius and he has done it so many times before for the Chennai Super Kings in previous seasons and Australia as well. We always look forward to him getting us off to a good start, and today was a perfect day for him.
A word on Shreyas Gopal and Krishmar Santokie, who took two wickets each in their first match of the season.
They bowled really well. They were playing their first match and performed really well when the team was under so much pressure; so credit to them. They are talented and I am sure they will do well going forward.
With all must-win games now, how do you pull the team together as a captain?
It is important that we stay together as a team and enjoy each other’s moments of success and enjoy this victory. It was a very good win. Beating RR on their home ground is a good feeling, and we have to enjoy that. Now we go to Mohali and play the Kings XI Punjab, so it is going to be a huge challenge. We just want to stick together and enjoy the moment and not think about qualifying. We just need to focus on the games that we are playing and keep our heads straight.
Chasing a challenging 179-run target, Karun Nair scored a 24-ball 48 to keep the Rajasthan Royals in the game. However, as he held up one end, wickets fell like nine pins at the other, which cost RR their fifth loss of the season.
The 22-year-old from Karnataka has carried forward his form from the Indian domestic season into the Pepsi Indian Premier League and has played a few good knocks for his team. Although he finished on the losing side against the Mumbai Indians in RR’s last home game of the season, he did put up a fight along with James Faulkner and Brad Hodge.
While speaking to IPLT20.com, he reflected on the game and spoke about his batting performance. Nair, who bats in the middle order for Karnataka, also talked about adapting to batting at the top of the line-up and being part of the Royals franchise.
Excerpts from his interview:
What were you told when you came out to chase?
I was just looking to play my natural game and be positive. They didn’t tell me anything. They didn’t put any pressure on me. I was just told to go and play my own game.
Would you say the quick fall of wickets cost you the match?
Yes, I think so. Because if we wouldn’t have lost so many wickets in the beginning, and then in between, we would have been able to chase down the target.
What challenges did you face while adjusting to bat in the top order?
At the start, I found it a little tough because I was trying too hard, not giving myself time and trying too much at the beginning itself. So, I decided that I should just give myself time and then runs would flow.
Being a batsman of the classical mould, how have you worked for batting in T20s?
I am playing the normal cricketing shots. I am not trying too hard; I am just trying to time the ball.
What was it like to bat out there today?
I think the pitch was a bit slow. We tried our best. Having a couple of wickets in hand in the end would have made a difference.
What has been it like to be part of the RR dressing room?
The experience has been really good. They have given me a lot of opportunities and they have given me a lot of support and confidence. So, I would like to thank the management for showing so much faith in me. Batting with someone like Shane Watson and having Rahul Dravid as a mentor, what are the things you have learnt?
I just try to pick the small things that they do on and off the field. Whenever I make a mistake, I try to go up to them and ask them about it, discuss it with them and try to improve my game.
What do you make of your IPL experience so far?
It has been good. I am trying to make good use of the opportunity I have got and I am trying to contribute to the team’s cause of winning matches.