Mumbai Indians' player Sachin Tendulkar plays a shot during their first match of IPL5 against Chennai Super Kings in Chennai. PTI Photo/R Senthil Kumar
The moment the umpire raised his finger, declaring R Ashiwn run out, Harbhajan Singh rushed in from mid-wicket — all pumped up with fists clenched and shrieking joyously — to celebrate the dismissal.
It was a fine fielding effort from the new Mumbai Indians skipper, and he looked mighty pleased with it. But didn't the more cynical of us see more than pure joy in that celebration? After all, hasn't R Ashwin pushed the angry young man from Punjab out from the India squad? Not convinced? Well, congratulations then, you don't belong to that cynical club.
On Wednesday, if there was anything the new Mumbai Indians skipper could be accused of was excellence. Not showing the nervousness and tentativeness of a newly appointed leader, he hardly put a foot wrong as he led MI to a roaring eight-wicket victory over defending champions Chennai Super Kings in the opener. The Super Kings have been almost invincible on their home turf, and that makes this victory even more laudable and significant.
In the very first game, he showed the most cherished and desired trait one looks in a captain --- to lead by example and from the front. He brought himself on with the fielding restrictions on, bowled well, took a catch and then, of course, also ran out Ashwin.
On the tactical front too, he checked the important boxes. He looked calm, busy and involved, without being intrusive and overbearing, and made quick and decisive changes when it came to rotating his bowlers and setting fields. Just when CSK batsmen threatened to take advantage of Abu Nechim's inexperience, he quickly brought in James Franklin, and the latter picked up M Vijay.
Ojha joins in
And when Suresh Raina and Dwayne Bravo had just about laid the foundation for the final assault, he threw the ball to Pragyan Ojha.
The left-armer obliged by removing both in quick succession, and thereafter the Chennai Super Kings could never recover.
All this meant the Mumbai Indians had to chase just 112. And this small target looked even smaller with Richard Levi, their latest import, smashing a sizzling 50 off just 34 balls.
The stout lad made a big impression in his very first game with a wide array of strokes, even as Tendulkar watched in admiration from the non-striker's end. They eventually reached the target in 16.5 overs overs, with eight wickets to spare.