Rohit Sharma forgot names of the players he had selected in his team at the toss. He stood shoulders drooped on the field, his lethargic gait hardly resembled that of a leader.
But it was as a captain that Rohit has thrived. He provided the first glimpse of that quality when he won Mumbai Indians the IPL title two years ago. On Sunday, he lifted the trophy the second time, to cap a season in which his hold over the team was unmistakable.
Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Anil Kumble and Shane Bond were all in the MI dugout as part of support staff, but this was still Rohit’s team. It was a team he knew how to get the best out of.
The May 14 game against Kolkata was Mumbai’s last league game at the Wankhede, and second-last overall. Mumbai had to win both to stay alive, to ensure that their dramatic revival after losing the first four games of the season would not prove in vain.
A rampaging Yusuf Pathan with 52 off just 36 deliveries was on strike in the last over. KKR needed 12 to win and knock Mumbai out. Rohit had used up his four main bowlers — Lasith Malinga, Mitch McClenaghan, Vinay Kumar and Harbhajan Singh. He could have bowled left-arm spinner Jagadeesha Suchith, but Yusuf could murder spin, so he went for Kieron Pollard’s medium-pace. The Trinidadian hadn’t bowled till then, but sent Pathan back off the first ball and won Mumbai the game.
“He helped the team peak at the right time. He has become very calm now and that has helped him get through tricky situations,” said former India skipper Ajit Wadekar.
As a batsman, Rohit has always beeen elegant. But as captain, he is flexible. He can bat where his team wants him to, and the way his team wants him to. In the past, Rohit had shouted from rooftops of his desire to open in the shorter formats. He started off as Aaron Finch’s opening partner this season, but it wasn’t working and poor starts were affecting MI. Within a couple of games he had moved down to No 4, and later to No 3. The change clicked as Mumbai romped to victory in eight of the last nine games in storming into the final.
In the final, Rohit launched into an onslaught from the word go. It was what MI needed to do, to surprise CSK. “His batting benefited from the captaincy, like it happens to a lot of people. He is an extraordinary batsman, right up there with the best in the country, like Kohli and Rahane,” said Wadekar.
If Rohit’s batting and captaincy can provide such an impact consistently, poor starts may never worry Mumbai Indians.