The last time at Wankhede when Mumbai Indians had lost to Kochi Tuskers Kerala, Sachin Tendulkar had pointed out that fielding remained the difference between the two sides who contested fiercely.
On Friday night, fielding once again remained the difference between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings in a fiercely fought contest except this time it was Tendulkar’s team that turned out to be better than the opposition.
The Wankhede cheered when Chennai dropped three catches and engaged in some sloppy fieldwork that allowed Mumbai Indians to set a target of 164 runs batting first. Wankhede cheered again when Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, R Sathish and James Franklin, among others, dived and threw themselves at everything to resist a successful chase.
Chennai Super Kings won the toss and elected to field in what is fast becoming a norm to follow here at the Wankhede. Strictly by way of record so far at this newly renovated stadium, the team batting second would have a better chance.
Chennai Super Kings almost did, reaching 100 runs in 11.4 overs. But from there on, some fantastic effort by the Mumbai Indians fielders stifled their chase.
Earlier in the evening, Mumbai Indians rode on an impressive 87 by Rohit Sharma to reach 164 in 20 overs.
For the first time in four and half years of playing any kind of professional cricket, Rohit Sharma – an Andhra lad by genes, Nagpur-born, but essentially a Mumbai cricketer – received an overwhelming welcome in his city.
“Rohit, Rohit, Rohit”, the crowd began chanting as the 23-year-old raced to a 31-ball 50 and from there to an eventual 87 off 48 balls, giving the Wankhede enough reasons to acknowledge his Mumbai roots.
The batsman walked out in his own leisurely manner after Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket fell down – one Mumbaikar eager to make his mark at the Wankhede replacing another Mumbaikar who is a legend. It wasn’t immediately that the crowd stood on their feet and applauded his arrival. Sharma would have to stay there, find his feet, play the ball well, and earn it for himself. 48 balls, eight fours and five sixes later he made that happen.
When Sharma eventually walked away, getting caught at long-on trying to hurry up for what could’ve been a century, the crowd stood on their feet and applauded. The innings turned out to be innovative and destructive both as he bade time for conditions to ease before the walloping began.
A ‘Dilscoop’ off Doug Bollinger will have to stand out as the shot of the evening but the shots that he played over mid-wicket and square leg, or moving down the leg side to loft the ball over covers were trademark Sharma. Later in the evening, the stupendous catch he took on long on to get rid of MS Dhoni was another stand out.
That he’s immensely talented has never been the question but what exactly has he been able to make of it in four years had certainly been nagging him and those expecting better things from him. On Friday, he took his first step in settling that debate.