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Mumbai high on Ashish

cricket Updated: May 08, 2008 01:20 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Watching Twenty20 cricket live is like being at a rock concert (or let’s just say a pop concert, rock this aint!).
You’re convinced there’s something sweetly catching in the air, that a helluva lot of people have come here high on something that’s not quite legal and - if the home team’s doing well and this is Mumbai - there’s an infectious energy and a foot-tapping rhythm to the proceedings that just makes you want to smile, wherever your loyalties lie.

In Ranji Trophy cricket, ask any other outfit which team they really want to beat and 99 per cent of the time, they’d look at you straight in the eye and say “Mumbai”. It’s not just because Mumbai have won the Ranji more times than everyone else put together and the others want to play catch up. It’s also because of that indescribable devil-may-care Mumbai attitude that riles the rest of the pack.

It’s a potent brew that's part spunk, part unfettered aggro, part an ability to lift their game at any stage because of an incredible feeling of belonging to their city (a feeling that the people belonging to no other Indian city really have) and finally, a wholly khadoos attitude.

Ask any Mumbai cricketer about how the average Mumbai cricketer plays his game and 99 per cent of the time, he would laugh and tell you “khadoos” - it’s a winner-takes-all, never-say-die kind of spirit, where the winning is achieved through any and every means.

Seeing the way Mumbai, languishing in the bottom half of the IPL points table, took on a chart-topping Jaipur team in the middle of a very purple patch on Wednesday night and walked all over them, you had to believe that some of that local khadoos attitude had finally rubbed off on the IPL team - a motley crew made up of untested locals, some domestic regulars, a few big name international stars (upcoming, faded and fading) and sans two of its biggest stars: Tendulkar and Harbhajan.

Harbhajan was, expectedly, nowhere to be seen. But Tendulkar - very much in evidence on the video screen and greeted with screams and chants by a besotted crowd every time his delighted face popped up - egged them on from the sidelines. And Jaipur, tired travellers perhaps and coming off the high of five wins on the trot, seemed done in as much by the pulsating, ‘we love Mumbai’ atmosphere as the completely professional performance put in by a team that this city is clearly beginning to identify with.

On this evening, there was little evidence of that X-factor that the Jaipur team has showcased so well for most of the IPL so far. Their batting was insipid at the beginning, seemed to come together for that period that saw a quickfire half-century partnership between Swapnil Asnodkar and Shane Watson and then fell apart again. For the most though, they seemed fatigued and in some faraway land where no one could reach them, barely scraping together 103 in 16.2 overs.

Mumbai cruised past the target with seven wickets in hand — a big win that should not only lift the team but also open up the table once again. For unheralded Jaipur and their talismanic skipper meanwhile, this is hopefully only a hiccup in a dramatic run that could be the stuff IPL legends are made of one day.