At the pre-match press conference on Tuesday, Mumbai Indians coach Ricky Ponting waxed eloquent about how the beauty of his skipper Rohit Sharma lay in the fact that he could bat at any position the team needed him to.
Rohit opened the innings in the first few matches before dropping down to fourth against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Monday, which the team lost. On Wednesday, against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the stylish India batsman was back as an opener.
It showed why the player’s best position was as opener. He regained his scoring touch with a patient 44-ball 62 to hand the hosts the upper hand at the Wankhede after restricting Royal Challengers Bangalore to 170/7.
Rohit’s other big score in the season, an unbeaten 84 against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens, his second home, while chasing, has also come when he opened the innings.
On Wednesday, at his home ground, Rohit showed his class. There was a casual flick off pacer Harshal Patel over backward square leg in the seventh over for six.
Rohit’s innings was another reminder why, in a team with powerful hitters like Kieron Pollard and Jos Buttler, he still remains the batting lynchpin.
Mumbai Indians’ IPL title defence hasn’t exactly gone to plan this season. They lost last year’s highest scorer Lendl Simmons to a lower back injury and within days learnt that the highest wicket taker in 2015, Sri Lanka slinger Lasith Malinga, too would miss the tournament due to a knee injury.
The effect of losing those two has been strongly felt and Mumbai lost three of their first four matches.
Against RCB, however, they started brightly, reducing the visitors’ powerful top order to 99/4 at one stage.
While the visitors were missing the services of Chris Gayle, who has flown back to Jamaica for the birth of his son, they still had Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson.
However, Mumbai pacer Tim Southee, a surprising omission from New Zealand’s starting XI at the World T20, was exceptional, conceding just 22 runs in his first three overs -- a spell which put pressure on RCB’s batting order.
Southee had claimed three wickets against Hyderabad Sunrisers on Monday and skipper Rohit reposed faith in him against RCB by giving him two slips and a gully in the first over. While Jasprit Bumrah claimed three wickets and Krunal Pandya scalped two, it was Southee’s spell which kept a tight leash on RCB in the opening spell.
Rohit held firm till the 13th over to ensure there would be no hiccups in the chase. Ambati Rayudu, Jos Buttler and Kieron Pollard also made weighty contributions, leaving the RCB bowlers struggling on a good pitch. Rohit’s 76-run second-wicket partnership with Rayudu effectively sealed the game.