Just over an hour before Mumbai started their hunt for a maiden win in the IPL against the Kolkata team at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday, Sachin Tendulkar was sprinting from one end of the wicket to another with coach Lalchand Rajput, physio Dr Nitin Patel and travel and logistics manager Atul Bedade in attendance.
What seemed a routine fitness drill ended up inspiring Tendulkar's teammates. He did not make the cut — it will be some time before he does — but Tendulkar's energy spurred his team to an unbelievable performance. It surprised Sourav Ganguly's (Shah Rukh Khan's, for that matter, since more than 90 per cent of the fans wearing the Kolkata team shirt at the ground were wearing Khan's shirt) and they lost by seven wickets.
It took five matches for the Mumbai team to finally get its act together. And looking at their performance, Neeta Ambani, wife of Mumbai team owner Mukesh, and her mother-in-law Kokilaben, who were present at the ground, must have surely been thinking: "Better late than never!"
After a splendid effort by bowlers, especially by Shaun Pollock, who struck twice in the first over, and Sanath Jayasuriya, who came up with a magic spell with 4-1-14-3, restricted Kolkata to 137 for eight, Mumbai recovered from three early blows to comfortably cross the target with eight balls to spare.
To capitalise on the good work of their bowlers, all Mumbai needed was one partnership — something that never happened in their first four losses. And after losing Jayasuriya, Ajinkya Rahane and U-19 World Cup star Manish Pandey — making his IPL debut — it appeared they would have to wait for another game for their first win.
But Robin Uthappa and Dwayne Bravo put together an unbeaten 113-run stand to see Mumbai home. Had Debabrata Das not spilled Uthappa at point, off Ashok Dinda in the initial stages of their stand, the picture could have been different.
But it was not to be as Bravo, the West Indies all-rounder, eventually lived up to his reputation. He first consolidated and then cut loose to register the first fifty by a Mumbai player in the tournament.
Though Bravo and Uthappa steered the team through, the win was set up by Pollock in the first over.
His double strike dismissing Ganguly and Brendon McCullum, playing his last match — off the third and the fifth ball gave Mumbai the confidence that was lacking so far.