IPL 2012 has opened up on a silent note. The opening match between the defending champions, the Chennai Super Kings and the strong contenders for the title, the Mumbai Indians was expected to be a block buster going down to the wire. But it ended up being a dump squib with Mumbai having a cakewalk over the rusty Chennai. The crowd at Chennai came with the full expectation of seeing their side end up on the right side only to be disappointed at the nature of the loss more than the loss itself.
Harbhajan, the newly anointed skipper got the first step right by winning the toss and electing to field. The first look at the Chepauk pitch did surprised many with a tinge of grass. The bounce and carry on the pitch was unknown in this city till now. And the moment the pitch seemed to aid bowlers, Mumbai appeared the better side for a more rounded bowling resources.
The match has been won for Mumbai by two of their new comers. Ojha is among the top notch bowlers in IPL and it is a master stroke to acquire him from Deccan. Mumbai needed a spinner to compliment Harbhajan and Mumbai got the second best spinner on the land. Until Ojha’s introduction at the tenth over, Chennai was threatening to reach a big target but Ojha immediately put the brakes by dismissing well set Raina. That was the turning point of the game and Chennai never recovered from the loss. Ojha’s spell of four overs got him two wickets for a partly 19.
If Ohja was exceptional, Pollard is not to be left behind. Pollard is among the players born for this format with his belligerent hitting, spectacular fielding and useful bowling. On a day when he was never required to bat, he had already done his part in not allowing the lower middle order of Chennai that includes Dhoni, Morkel and Jadeja to score freely. The squeeze has been put and Chennai’s famed batters departed to edges.
The amazing aspect of Mumbai’s game was the sharpness of ground fielding. Three run outs were effected. Rayadu relieved off his keeping duties sent back Faf De Plessis in the first over itself for a sharp throw from short covers when batsmen tried to steal a quick single. Dhoni’s run out ascertained the need for a sharp regular glove man and here Dinesh Kaarthik is going to be a boon for Mumbai. To beat Dhoni, a very smart runner between the wickets takes a lot. Ashwin was run out for the umpteenth time and it comes as a no surprise.
Mumbai came in to chase a partly total of 113 and man what a start they had. Levi was signed in as a replacement for Symonds. He came in with a reputation having scored a big hundred of just 45 balls against the Kiwis. The innings he played yesterday showed that it was no fluke. To watch him bat along with Tendulkar was like witnessing a “Beauty and Beast” together. Levi with unorthodox strokes can very well blend with a flawless Tendulkar. Here again Mumbai needed a proper opening partner to Tendulkar and Levi seems to fit in perfectly. His fifty on IPL debut will send message to the teams on his ability. Tendulkar retired hurting his finger and his injury may be a concern for Mumbai. But before that, playing just few balls, Sachin showed his class in that six over covers of Morkel’s bowling.
Rohit was hit by a Bollinger special and departed immediately. He is one player who has immense potential but has not lived up to it. He may want to have a strong IPL as usual since the opportunity at a stint in Indian Test side is knocking the door. Once Levi and Rohit departed, the win was a formality and Rayadu and Franklin finished the things without much fuss about it.
The game plan of Mumbai reflected that of Chennai’s usual one. Squeeze the opposition in the middle overs has been Super King’s formula throughout the years and this time they got the taste of their own medicine from Ojha’s slow left arm spin and Pollard’s sharp medium pace. Mumbai’s fielding reflected the gap between the sides. Chennai’s sharpest fielders like Raina, Vijay were all sloppy on the field. The partly score to defend did no help either.
This game also show caused the team’s choices at the auction. Mumbai had acquired a perfect opening partner for Tendulkar, a very good wicket keeper batsman and a smart spinner to support Harbhajan. All the three chinks in their armour were patched up and the three men made a big difference. Levi won the small chase in a mean time; Kaarthick not only freed Rayadu but also was very sharp behind the wickets. Ojha probably was the man who won it for Mumbai dismissing dangerous Raina and Bravo, the two Super Kings who showed signs of form. In contrast, the biggest purchase of the year Ravindra Jadeja was an utter failure. He could not make a mark with the bat despite having adequate time to rebuild the innings. His bowling was torn apart by Levi and he looked out of sorts with both bat and ball.
Mumbai with a strong combination and a new captain looks dangerous. They had always began the IPL on style before running out of gas and it needs to be seen if they can change the habit this time. Apart from Tendulkar’s injury scare Mumbai has nothing to worry with a clinical performance while Chennai needs to reassess their strategy. Above all, Chepauk’s pitch may be very sporting but this is not what IPL needs. Can Chennai prove their rustic beginning is not a big issue by going for a win again?