What we have in Mumbai dressing room is belief – Pollard
On a slowish surface in Abu Dhabi, Hardik Pandya wasn’t batting as deep inside the crease as he has done in the last few years. But one delivery by Mohammed Shami in the 17th over surprised him. It shot off the surface steeply and pinged him on his torso, unsettling him enough for the bowler to offer an apology.
Hardik has traditionally been troubled by Shami. In the 13 balls of contest between the two in IPL before that delivery, the pacer had dismissed Hardik thrice, while conceding only 17 runs in return. Realising there was more pace on offer from Shami, he stepped back in his crease – in what is now a more comfortable position for him – and clubbed the bowler for a boundary and a six off successive cutters directed at his body.
Till that point in the game, Hardik wasn’t middling the ball well enough to get the big hits, clawing to a 17-ball 12 while the required rate had gone past the 10-an-over mark in a modest run-chase. Against a more familiar ploy of bowling cutters outside off – which had brought about his downfall thrice in the tournament – Hardik struggled. After getting hit for two boundaries, Shami changed the line of attack and bowled wide outside off for the next three deliveries to concede only one more run. Arshdeep Singh followed the pattern and troubled him for two more deliveries in the next over.
If it wasn’t to be for a hard push by Kieron Pollard through the vacant extra cover region for a boundary, and an ensuing field-set disaster – which made the plan of bowling outside off even more obvious – Kings Punjab could’ve found themselves in a better position to sustain the pressure on possibly the most destructive finishing duo.
At a time where their qualification chances remain sensitive, a position where they’ve found themselves many a times in the past, Mumbai brought out their ‘A’ game. They cleaned up the chase with an over to spare, rewinding to the not-so-far back good times of MI finishes.
“We don’t plan it to be like this because it’s a lot of pressure on us as cricketers to win all the games at the backend,” Pollard said after the 6-wicket win. “But what we have in the dressing room is belief – belief in one another and belief that we can get ourselves out of any situation. We have guys who have been there in tough times, in different scenarios, at different times. At the end of the day, we’ve put oursleves in a situation where we are at now. So it’s just about us sticking together and getting ourselves out of it.”
Hardik’s innings encapsulates the situation of Mumbai Indians. Brief success notwithstanding, there are visible concerns to be addressed.
It wasn’t a big run-chase, certainly not for Hardik and Kieron Pollard, who had broken death-over records only last season at the same venue. However, the surface has slowed down, and with it, also amplified the struggles of Mumbai Indians’ middle order. The comfortable victory margin might paint a happier picture for the defending champions but it wasn’t as flawless a performance as they would’ve liked.
Especially the performance of Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya with the bat have been below-par this season, and it has reflected in the team’s batting numbers.
However, Pollard has backed the trio and said, “It’s just a matter of giving the guys the confidence that they’ve done it before and can do it again. To find the problem and then find the best solutions to what’s happening. These are the guys who have done it for us time and time again. It’s difficult when you have a lot of people on the outside speaking about it. At the end of the day, these people speak and don’t understand what a person goes through as a cricketer. For us, it’s about backing them and giving them the confidence that they can do well as young, talented individuals.
“People are going on about the pitches and wickets. But you can’t get what you want all the time. You just need to adapt at different times.”
Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai Indians captain, however, while admitting that there are issues that need to be addressed, added that the end of the three-match losing streak was a much-needed confidence booster for the side that is a part of the mid-table race. “We do agree that we didn’t play to our potential, but it’s a long tournament and we need to stick to our plans and reading the situations is very important and we can take a lot of confidence from that. It’s important not to lose the guard.”
Even after a successful outing, both Hardik and Mumbai Indians would have reasons to expect merrier days.