The adage that it’s wickets that win matches was emphatically proved on Sunday night. Lasith Malinga chose the perfect stage to make his most telling statement of this year’s tournament. By his own lofty standards, he had been a little below par when it came to taking wickets but he more than made up for it in the final as he set up Mumbai Indians' first title triumph in the competition.
To me, where the game was won and lost was when Malinga dismissed Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina in the first over. He bowled quick and with hostility, and the yorker with which he got rid of Hussey was an absolute peach. To follow that up with a beautiful short ball speaks volumes not only of the team’s preparation but also of Malinga's resolve, his skill-sets and the ability to execute plans brilliantly.
The yorker bowled on middle and leg is the most difficult delivery to keep out because it keeps following the batsman and cramps him for room. No less brilliant was the first ball to Raina. When you are straight on and facing the bowler with your right eye like Raina, being a left-hander, the ball sometimes lands on the blind spot. For you to have a full view of the ball, you must open up a little bit, but no one would have expected such a ball so early in one’s innings. Malinga exploited that superbly, sending Raina packing even before his mind could digest all these issues.
However, such is the aura around MS Dhoni that no opposition can feel secure till he is in the middle. Dhoni batted without any support, but even with two overs to go, you suspected that Dhoni thought he had a realistic chance of pulling it off. Given the events that have hit the Chennai camp in the last few days, it was a great show of character from Dhoni. He was detached out in the middle, as he had to be, and it is a bit of a shame he had to wage a solitary battle.
Having said that, I am delighted for the Mumbai Indians. They have always had a strong team with all the ingredients required for victory, but somehow the final push has remained elusive. They have now broken the duck and it could lead to something special. They left no stone unturned this season, roping in John Wright as coach, Kumble as mentor and Ponting as captain, though it was Rohit Sharma who led them in the second half of the tournament. Add Tendulkar to this mix, and there’s very little that can go wrong when it comes to planning and strategising.
For the owners, this triumph would be vindication of their trust in the team. They invest loads of money, time and emotion into the team’s development. Sometimes, when the results don’t come, you can get despondent. After all, you have provided the team with the best support structure and facilities, so you do want trophies. This success will make the owners feel they belong to a different league now.
TCM/HAWKEYE. The writer is former India pacer.