His name, when announced by the scorers on a croaky microphone, could easily be mistaken for MS Dhoni.
But on a humid Chennai night in Chennai, MS Gony carved out an identity of his own when he bowled a fantastic spell (4-1-18-1), which dried up Mumbai’s scoring for a while and made all the difference between winning and losing in a humdinger.
The tall, strapping Punjabi bowled what will undoubtedly go on to be one of the IPL’s most economical spells as Chennai defeated Mumbai by a bare six runs in their first home game at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
But despite Manpreet Singh Gony’s heroics and before Joginder Sharma showed he’s making a habit of winning match-winning final overs, another youngster (and a relative unknown in what is a galaxy of superstar cricketers) Mumbai’s Abhishek Nayar, almost ruined Chennai’s homecoming party.
Chennai were more or less cruising towards an easy win when Nayar magicked an unbeaten 45 from only 20 balls. That and his 48-run stand off only 20 balls with his skipper Harbhajan Singh (28 off 14 balls) took Mumbai to within breathing distance of the target of 209.
Mumbai, who lost opener Luke Ronchi in the first over, never really looked to be in chase (despite Robin Uthappa’s steady 43) until Nayar and Harbhajan gave Chennai a scare by scoring 21 runs off the 17th over, bowled by Palani Amarnath. Harbhajan scored 13 more in the next over off Jacob Oram, setting up a nail biting finish.
But then he perished going for one more big one and Mumbai, who needed 20 off the last over, could manage only 13 as Joginder did that thing he does so well for Dhoni.
While the second half undoubtedly was the stuff that edge-of-the-seat thrillers are made of, the first half wasn’t short of fireworks either. Chennai’s Matthew Hayden (81 off 46) and Suresh Raina (53 off 37) combined in a spectacular stand off 104 from only 63 balls to take the Sunshine Boys to 208 in their 20 overs.
When Mumbai began their chase, Dhoni gave Gony his overs on the trot and the grateful Gony repaid the faith. Interestingly, Gony, ignored by his ‘home’ team, Mohali, had said before the league began that he wanted to prove a point to those at home by playing well against them at Mohali. But in that, he went for 42 from his four overs.
On Wednesday, he more than made his point, at his new home, even one that’s temporary. Even now, only a week into the event, this IPL looks like it will be remembered as much for the birth of a clutch of new domestic stars as for the heroics of more familiar names. Gony, if he bowls half as well through the event as he did on this Chennai night, will surely be among that clutch.