IPL 2024: How Mumbai Indians collectively combusted to disappoint home fans

Synopsis: It was a night of disappointment for Mumbai Indians batsmen as they imploded on a red-soil pitch with some assistance to seam and some bounce for spinners before a composed Riyan Parag ensured Rajasthan Royals cantered to a win

It was all set for a Rohit Sharma special. Only it didn’t happen. When he walked into the arena before the game, he was greeted with loud fanatic cheers, borrowing a line from the Ramgopal Verma movie Satya: “Mumbai ka raja kaun, Rohit Sharma!” When he came to bat later, the cheers were deafening and he took a while to get ready. The guard was scratched, a look here and there, and one at the bowler, and he was yet to settle in.

A slight shimmy to the legside to look around even more as the shouts kept growing. Eventually, he faced up but Trent Boult pulled down the blinds with a perfect curler away, not merely the garden-variety angler but one that seamed away, and Rohit’s hands betrayed him as they covered for the line, only to find the outside edge. He still might have survived but an alert Sanju Samson dived low to his right to pouch the rapidly-dipping ball.

The crowd groaned. And it would grow louder next ball when Boult produced the other variation: a nipbacker that trapped Naman Dhir LBW, plumb in front of the stumps.

Pandya goes, crowd falls silent

It was all set for a Hardik Pandya special, a potentially romantic story of how he won a hostile crowd over with his heroics. It started like that but fizzled out. At the toss, he was booed. As he faced up to his first delivery when his name was announced from the stadium speakers, he was booed. Four balls later, he silenced them with a sliced drive over backward point. Next ball, he had them up on their feet waving the Mumbai Indians flags when he rushed down the track to whack a back-of-length delivery from Nandre Burger through cover-point. Couple of balls later, he had them hollering as he charged out to ping long-on. A little later, R Ashwin, the man who had supported him on his YouTube channel, chiding fans for booing him, slipped in a few carrom balls at him and he scythed one through the off-side. More cheers.

Festive offer

It’s then that Pandya ran into Rajasthan’s best spinner on the night, Yuzvendra Chahal in the 8th over. There was a fizzing leg-break that Hardik tried to cut in his trademark fashion – not a twitch off the foot movement, just a flaying bat swing on bent knees, but couldn’t connect. But off the fourth ball in that over, he unfurled the late cut to pick up a boundary. But Chahal would come back in his next over, the 10th of the innings, with a brave flighted leg-break seemingly in Pandya’s arc. The previous ball had been a quicker leg-break that beat Pandya, who couldn’t resist the lofted drive this time. Chahal’s bravery and trickery paid off as the ball miscued into the night sky to be taken at long-on, and Chahal would hunch on his knees and curl into a fist-pump. The crowd fell silent as Pandya trudged off.

He would have another brief failed impact on the game and the crowd. In the fourth over of the chase, when Jos Buttler bunted a delivery from Jasprit Bumrah, who was used with the new ball, Pandya threw in a spectacular dive at mid-off at an angle to nearly pull off a screamer, but the ball popped out as he hit the ground. The crowd’s joy was cut abruptly and a groan sort of hung suspended in the air for a moment.

Ishan falls, crowd sigh

It seemed it could be Ishan Kishan’s night, and he had got the crowd on his side with three wristily-flayed boundaries, but then came a quality pacy ball from Burger. It kicked up rapidly and just about straightened around off and that was enough for Kishan to get squared-up, like Ramnaresh Sarwan would do, and squirt an edge behind.

Varma exits, crowd immune by now

Could it turn out to be a night for Tilak Varma, who slammed a couple of sixes to raise the home crowd’s hopes? It didn’t. By this time, Chahal had taken down Pandya and was surging in confidence. A shortish ball in the 14th over could have been punished but Varma awkwardly swatted it back to the bowler. Next one was a Chahal classic: a well-outside-off flighted delivery that, in hindsight, most batsmen would feel would be wide had they left it alone, but they never can. Neither could Varma, who reached out for a cut, only managing to squirt it to the left of short third where Ashwin moved in time to take a smart lunging catch.

From then on, Mumbai could only manage to ensure they didn’t get bowled out, and though they took a couple of wickets in the chase, Riyan Parag, who stayed composed in a mature knock, adding 35 runs in 40 balls with Ashwin, batting at No.5 again, ensured that there wouldn’t be too much fuss.

Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 125/9 in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 34, Tilak Verma 32; Chahal 3/11, Boult 3/22) lost to Rajasthan Royals 127/4 in 15.3 overs (Riyan Parag 54 not out; Akash Madhwal 3/20) by six wickets



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