Mumbai Indians seamer Akash Madhwal’s record-breaking five-wicket haul helped the five-time champion overcome Lucknow Super Giants without breaking a sweat in the IPL 2023 Eliminator match at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.
With a commanding 81-run win pushing it forward to the Qualifier 2 encounter against the Gujarat Titans, MI will back the level-headed Madhwal to step up after he registered the first five-for (five for five) in a Playoffs match, incidentally also the joint-best figures ever by an Indian in the tournament.
The new colt from Mumbai’s classic stable of unheralded Indian talent, Madhwal has emerged as captain Rohit Sharma’s interim answer to spearhead Jasprit Bumrah’s absence.
“It’s not like I have taken up Bumrah bhai’s spot. I am just trying to perform to the fullest. I have a slightly slinging action, so I was pitching the ball on hard lengths to extract wickets,” Madhwal said in the post-match press conference after bundling the Super Giants for the lowest Playoffs total (101).
A net bowler with MI last year, Madhwal said his performances in practice games eventually landed him a deal as a replacement for an injured Suryakumar Yadav towards the closing stages of Mumbai’s disappointing IPL 2022 campaign. He was one of MI’s 16 retained players for this edition.
“I first joined Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2019 as a net bowler before being a net bowler with MI and receiving a contract. I was picked up only before the last two matches when Surya bhai was injured. I had a clear message that I wouldn’t get an opportunity then. But I was told to continue the good work that I’ve been doing and that chances would come next year,” Madhwal said.
Handed the limited-overs captaincy of Uttarakhand from the 2022-23 domestic season, the 29-year-old Madhwal said the leadership stint has helped to improve his on-field nous. “Captaining was not an easy task. Your workload increases. I was not overwhelmed, but I had a lot to learn from the experience. Earlier, I used to view the game only as a bowler. But as a captain, I have become analytical of the conditions. It has improved my game,” he said.
While Madhwal has often bowled in the second half of the innings in the previous six matches, Rohit used him in the PowerPlay against Lucknow. The right-arm pacer initiated the collapse, removing LSG opener Prerak Mankad after conceding only two runs in the second over.
Commending the captain’s understanding of his skillset, Madhwal said, “Rohit bhaiya knew my strength is my yorker. He has used me in positions where the team has required me. Besides that in the nets, I have been doing well with the new ball, and today he thought I was ready to do the job upfront. The credit for keeping me calm also goes to him.”
Madhwal’s five-year journey to the IPL through the Uttarakhand team with a background in tennis ball cricket has translated into his uncluttered operation in the death overs. “I have worked hard to get here — I completed engineering, left a job later, and now I am just following my passion. I don’t come from a wealthy background. When you enjoy your passion, you are naturally chilled out. There is no burden on me that I have to play cricket. I am doing it because it’s my passion,” Madhwal said.
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