Among the things Rahul Dravid mentioned about his home venue ahead of the match, ‘great (home) support’ stood out. But outside, among the crowd that had braved showers and the sun from 3:30 pm in a long queue were examples of shifting loyalties.
A man in his late 20s, who had barely recovered from a foot fracture, limped into the venue, helped by a friend and others. Asked why he’s taken the trouble, he replied, ‘Sachin Tendulkar’.
Call it Tendulkar’s farewell effect or the indelible passion for T20 cricket despite the spot-fixing scandal. The Champions League T20, an event rejected by Mohali this week and at other venues in earlier editions, saw an almost packed house. No wonder the organising committee have looked at various ways to increase the number of Indian teams in the event.
Tendulkar didn’t entirely disappoint but left the fans asking for much more – his three fours through the offside, off Aussie stars Shane Watson and James Faulkner, bringing roars but on his dismissal they began cheering Rajasthan Royals, who managed to restrict Mumbai Indians to 142 in 20 overs on a good track.
The packed house was also a perfect opportunity for Harbhajan Singh to display his just-launched Bhajji bats, shining with fluorescent pink stickers, on the giant screen and TV but for Keiron Pollard, who farmed the strike and launched into the Royals attack, helping MI snare 46 off the last 26 balls. Bhajji, rather selflessly, ran himself out in pursuit of quick runs.
Pollard’s 42 and Rohit Sharma’s 44 were the only notable scores in 142 but the total begun to look challenging when local skipper Rahul Dravid hit it straight to point. Pollard, known to spill chances at point in MI shirt, ensured this one was taken.
Dravid’s wicket gave MI a boost but Ajinkya Rahane and newly-promoted at No 3, Sanju Samson made them chase the leather. They never recovered.