HYDERABAD: It takes guts to back a bowler who has just been taken to the cleaners, but the story of Mumbai Indians’ fourth title in IPL has been just that – of guts and glory.
The final at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium was slowly tilting towards Rohit Sharma and Co. Leggie Rahul Chahar had created sufficient pressure with his 13 dot balls and Jasprit Bumrah did what he does best: stifle the opposition.
Chennai Super Kings had Shane Watson and Dwayne Bravo in the middle, the former reprieved twice, by Malinga and Chahar. The air was heavy with anticipation and something had to give. The message for the CSK batsmen at the second timeout was simple: go for it. Lasith Malinga was at the receiving end as the 16th over he bowled went for 20. Watson repeated the dose to Krunal Pandya in the 18th over. Watson and Bravo succumbed and the equation was nine from the last over to be bowled by Malinga.
It soon came down to two from the last ball and suddenly all three outcomes looked possible: a Mumbai/CSK win or a Super over. Fortunately for Mumbai, skipper Rohit banked on experience, not just the experience of Malinga, but the experience of having been in a similar situation before.
In the 2017 final, too, at the same venue, Mumbai had defended 10 runs against Rising Pune Supergiant and won by one run. The hero then was Mitchell Johnson, another battle-scarred veteran. Skipper Rohit alluded to that feat when asked if it was instinct that made him turn to Malinga in the final over.
“At that stage, I wanted to go with someone with experience,” Rohit said. “Malinga has been in that situation a million times. In 2017, it was Mitchell Johnson who bowled the last over and defended only 10 runs. Sometimes you’ve got to go with instinct, sometimes you’ve got to go a little backwards and think what these experienced players bring to the table. Malinga is one of the finest T20 player we’ve seen. For MI he’s done it for so many years. With nine runs anything can happen, but you have to back experience,” he added.
As it turned out, the choice of the bowler and the chosen final delivery were spot on. It was not a full length yorker, but Malinga bowled a slow yorker that did the trick.
“In a situation like that, both teams are under pressure. We didn’t want to take it to the Super over. The idea was to get the batsman out. I know Shardul really well. So we decided – me and Malinga – that we’ll go for the slower option because knowing Shardul, he’d play a big shot. He could’ve middled the ball, it could’ve cleared the ground. But at that point, you have to be brave to take those crucial situations,” he said.