Using home advantage to the full

Yusuf Pathan is castled by Ashish Nehra, who was the pick of the Mumbai bowlers.-VIVEK BENDRE

Rajasthan was eclipsed by clever bowling, stunning catching and teamwork under a pro-active Mumbai leader in Pollock. Sachin Tendulkar cheered and clapped and Harbhajan Singh was not seen, as lesser known, lesser paid team-mates rose to the occasion in front of delirious home fans. Nandakumar Marar reports.

In Shaun Pollock’s view, home advantage means familiarity with the nature of the wicket and assured crowd support. Mumbai Indians made the most of the twin benefits in the seventh round tie of the Indian Premier League at the D. Y. Patil Stadium, Nerul. “Visiting sides don’t know how many runs will be enough on this wicket,” said the South African, referring to over-anxiety on the part of the Rajasthan Royals batsmen, resulting in the visitors getti ng bowled out for 103 in pursuit of quick runs.

“The crowds have been behind us, encouraging our players to raise their game to a different level,” the Mumbai captain added, referring to the seven-wicket victory, almost surreal in the light of the way the two teams had shaped up so far.

Rajasthan was eclipsed by clever bowling, stunning catching and teamwork under a pro-active leader in Pollock. Sachin Tendulkar cheered and clapped and Harbhajan Singh was not seen, as lesser known, lesser paid team-mates rose to the occasion in front of delirious home fans. Third-choice wicket-keeper Yogesh Takawale’s courageous showing, featuring in only his second IPL game (ahead of Australian Luke Ronchi and Gujarat’s Pinal Shah) raised a query whether the Mumbai brains trust under-estimated the value local talent could add to the side. Dhaval Kulkarni and Rohan Raje, two young fast bowlers from Mumbai, were equally effective in doing their bit for the team plan, competing alongside the accomplished Pollock and the experienced Dwayne Bravo or Ashish Nehra.

Takawale trained at the D. Y. Patil Academy under Abey Kuruvilla before making the cut for Maharashtra in first-class cricket, so competing in a known environment put him in a better frame of mind than the foreign players. Three catches, out of which two were exceptional, one stumping on second attempt standing up to Pollock, were adequate proof of the youngster’s combative nature. Ashish Nehra picked up the ‘Man of the Match’ award for 3-13 in three overs, deceiving batsmen with late movement, though Takawale’s catching behind the stumps was as effective in giving the Mumbai bowling resources an edge needed to sustain pressure on rivals.

The Mumbai wicket-keeper’s presence of mind and sharp reflexes produced one of IPL’s most thrilling moments. Rajasthan all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja fended away a snorter from Kulkarni, the ball flew off the bat handle and looped over Takawale, whose response was to turn, scramble a few steps ahead with pads on and dive forward to complete the catch. The confidence extended to his batting. Sanath Jayasuriya breathed easy with the youngster at the other end, putting on 41 runs for the first wicket as the openers defied pace bowlers Sohail Tanvir and Munaf Patel. Warne’s mastery and control ended Takawale’s resistance, a first ball flipper dislodging the stumps.

Rajasthan was out of depth and 103 was too low a score to fight back, even with Warne ready with a bag of tricks. Swapnil Asnodkar, the second D. Y. Patil Academy trainee seen in action, waged a lone battle for the visitors. The other batsmen were done in by clever Mumbai bowling. Pollock deceived opener Graeme Smith’s charge with a slower ball, for Takawale to complete the stumping. Bravo angled one away from Shane Watson and Nehra nailed Yusuf Pathan with a delivery sneaking past the batsman’s flashing blade.

Raje’s first wickets in the IPL included top-scorer Asnodkar (39 runs) and Mohd. Kaif; Kulkarni dismissed Jadeja and Warne, creating a problem of choice for the Mumbai Indians management, whether to select squads based on form, reputation or price tag as the IPL crosses the half-way stage. Sachin Tendulkar, the icon, is yet to get a look-in and changing a successful combination is risky. Under Pollock, the established and the newcomers are feeding off each other’s success.

THE SCORES

Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals, Dr. D. Y. Patil Sports Stadium, May 7, 2008.

Result: Mumbai Indians won by seven wickets.

Rajasthan Royals 103 in 16.2 overs (S. Asnodkar 39, S. Watson 32, A. Nehra 3-13, D. Kulkarni 2-21, D. Bravo 2-12, R. Raje 2-19) lost to Mumbai Indians 104 for three in 15.1 overs (Y. Takawale 27, R. Uthappa 34, S. Watson 2-26).