Dubai: The ruthless streak in Mumbai Indians’ performance during their 48-run win over Kings XI Punjab on Thursday fell very much into their template of success over the years. A masterclass by captain Rohit Sharma as he crossed 5000 IPL runs, the sledgehammer treatment of Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya - supplemented by a three-pronged quality pace attack which choked the rivals.
It was so clinical that the second part of the match, after Nicholas Pooran’s end, often turned out to be tedious. A breath of fresh air in this was, of course, Rahul Chahar whose performance showed why Mumbai was not overly concerned with the absence of a so-called big name in their spin department. No wonder, the 21-year-old’s two for 26 was rated as the ‘most impactful’ performance of the day by ESPNcricinfo.
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There is something in the air of India’s western state of Rajasthan which seems to be producing the future generation of India’s leg spinners. If Chahar, who has already earned India colours when played against the West Indies in a lone T20 International last year is one, the other rookie to watch out for is Ravi Bishnoi, 20, of Kings XI Punjab.
Chahar, bowling slower through the air, broke the back of Kings XI’s batting when they were struggling with the early loss of the in-form Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair. Captain KL Rahul, who was yet to find the rhythm of earlier matches, went for a fancy lap sweep to Chahar only to miss the line and be bowled. The young bowler then again played on the patience of Glenn Mawxwell, who is nowhere his destructive self when he played here in the IPL 2014, and the match was as good as over as a contest.
Incidentally, the leggie who stands out for the trendy bun in his hair, earned the confidence of the MI think thank with an impressive performance in the last season itself. Then only 20, Chahal was thrown into the deep end by Rohit last year and he finished the campaign with 13 wickets in as many matches. More than the wicket-taking capabilities, it was the leg-spinner’s control which caught the eye.
He maintained an excellent economy-rate of just 6.55 throughout the tournament and those performances even earned him a surprise India debut. With him providing the variety and Krunal Pandya showing the heart to bowl at the powerplay, Mumbai’s slow bowling options can be quite a handful.
In his post-match reaction, Rahul said he was not frustrated but ‘disappointed’ after having lost three of their four games already. There are two areas that they need to address urgently: the top order should take more responsibility as the Rahul-Agarwal pair cannot be expected to do the job in every game, while the death over woes need to be urgently looked into.