VIJAY HAZARE CHAMPIONS
Shreyas Iyer reaped instant success as Mumbai’s limited overs skipper © Getty
In a refreshing change of narrative, Shreyas Iyer, Mumbai captain, cleared out that his team was playing the final like it was a FINAL, “not like just another game,” effectively meaning neither the intensity nor the nerves were compromised when they took on their arch-rivals Delhi.
Iyer thrives on confidence and speaks in words that leave no negative air. It is only when it all subsides that he talks about the ‘pressure’.
It was a contest that Mumbai dominated for most parts. But when that control slipped, it turned around completely. Navdeep Saini’s opening burst had left Mumbai reeling at 40 for 4. “Saini bowled a really good spell,” Iyer said after Mumbai’s win. “It’s tough for a batsman when you go in and see two wickets falling down. It puts pressure on the batsman. You couldn’t judge the wicket right from the first ball because it totally changed in the second innings. It was two-paced – some balls carried well and some stayed low. It was his day and he bowled really well.”
However, he doesn’t modest up when claiming that Mumbai won because ‘Mumbai is a perfect team’.
The story wouldn’t have been so had Aditya Tare and Siddhesh Lad not bailed them out from a precarious situation. The duo stitched a 101-run alliance for the fifth wicket to again turn the course of the game in Mumbai’s favour. Praising their batting, Iyer said, “They are batsmen who have performed previously in pressure situations. We believed in them because we knew that they would finish off the game. Ajinkya [Rahane] and I were chatting and said they would win us the game.”
Despite being in a tricky situation, the duo decided to counter attack against the attacking field that was set, rather than wear the bowlers out. The latter could have been a ploy, especially with the required rate not being bothersome.
“We (the top order) were also doing the same, but we got out,” Iyer said. “We had to play that way as they had put an attacking field. If we got bogged down, they would have been on top. You never know, we might have lost five-six wickets and the match would have been sealed. But our team was going at six runs per over, which was a positive sign for us. We just knew that they (Tare and Lad) had to play out this phase. Delhi did not have a fifth bowler with Negi having got injured as well.”
He heaped praise on how the team had stood up and dominated in all the games en route the final. “Amazing is the one word,” Iyer said about Mumbai’s campaign and his maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy win. “The consistency which we have shown in the tournament has been brilliant from the first match. The lower order batsmen hardly got a chance to bat, and today when they got an opportunity, they showed what they are made of. Everybody in our team can bat and bowl. We are a perfect team, and that is why we have won.”In Mumbai’s last domestic title triumph (2015-16 Ranji Trophy), they had no Test player in the side in the final – being the only such occasion in their 41-title history in Ranji Trophy. On Saturday, they were fielding four international players, apart from Rohit Sharma, who provided his services for a couple of games. The plethora of international and IPL players in the contest drew a reasonably large crowd to the ground – the kind of which is rarely witnessed in domestic matches.
But barring just their star power, which works as a crowd-puller, Iyer also shed light on their importance in a domestic setup. “When you see Rahane or Rohit Sharma come into the team, you’re already motivated to see them play,” he explained. “And at the back of your mind you have the belief that no matter whatever the situation or condition is, you’re going to be safe because they’re there. Obviously, you get to learn a lot from them at the same time. In the nets, you keep asking them how their journey had been and how they tackle certain situations.”