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Unyielding Gujarat Titans upend MI’s plan to break out of season-opener jinx

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So what if Mumbai Indians lost their season-opener once again. Since 2013, the year Rohit Sharma took over the reins of the team, MI have yet to secure victory in their first game. So wasn’t the result expected anyway? Wrong. The banality of this outcome does not stem from the Mumbai Indians’ recurrent theme of initial defeats. Instead, it signals the unwavering fighting spirit of the Gujarat Titans.

Shubman Gill, backed by a reservoir of intellectual experience of international captains such as David Miller, Kane Williamson, and Rashid Khan, alongside a coaching staff led by hyper alert Ashish Nehra, orchestrated a meticulous plan that led to the downfall of the Mumbai Indians, who appeared to set to break their age-old first-match jinx. It was not to be.

“The thing about this whole team is how it has been run. In the last two years, we have put a lot of emphasis on competing. Whether we win or lose, we are very proud of the way we play and I think we competed really well and that was the talk given by Ashish Nehra. I think all credit to the culture he has set up here for the last two years,” R Sai Kishore, Titans’ spinner, said of the philosophy of the Gujarat side, who stopped MI from winning the game with their indomitable resolve and unwavering grit and tenacity.

Albeit in a different context, Kieron Pollard, the Mumbai Indians batting coach, said at the end of the game, “One thing (that is) constant in life is change.” Sure the Trinidadian was not referring to the team’s premier curse but it was a game well-planned and perfectly executed by the Titans’ brain trust.

These may be early days still – it was the fifth game of the season – but Nehra & Co have realized the value of a second bouncer in an over, a rule change that was introduced for the first time in the IPL this season. Tim David, Gerald Coetzee, Hardik Pandya and Piyush Chawla got out to what could have been the second short ball of the over.

Veterans Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav were perfect in execution but Nehra was the plotter behind the scene. As is his style, the head coach would send instructions after every delivery to the middle and seemed to be actually dictating the proceedings from the sidelines. Mumbai failed to chase 38 runs from 25 balls with seven wickets in hand.

“We tried to go into the wicket a lot more. We tried to trust our length a lot more than directly going for yokers in the death overs because the wicket was doing something and I think that resulted in getting a lot of wickets. I think that is what he was emphasizing,” Sai Kishore, the left-arm spinner, said explaining the instructions from the dugout.

Sai Kishore, who has recently been hailed as a quality left-arm spinner, second only to Ravindra Jadeja by Shardul Thakur during a Ranji game last month, bowled all his four overs on the trot, something that is rarely seen in a Twenty20 match. The bowlers’ quota of overs is normally spread out but Nehra and Gill felt they needed to contain the MI batsmen in the middle. Sai Kishore came in handy. He finished with 1 for 24 in his four overs with the prized scalp of Rohit Sharma.

“When you bowl four overs on the trot, it’s more like a one-day match. So you can be in rhythm. It is a lot easier (to bowl). With the impact player rule, we are actually playing with six bowlers. So I’m getting that role where I’m getting to bowl those four overs on the trot in the middle overs. But I’m actually open to bowling it as one, one, one,” Sai Kishore explained the thinking behind bowling all four overs in one go.

He was through with his quota by the 13th over. Rashid Khan, the other spinner in the side, finished his four overs in two spells. Mohit Sharma was introduced only in the 12th over and he broke the back of Mumbai Indians’ batting with a deft mix of deliveries, the most deceptive one being a slow bouncer. Nehra, from behind the scenes, was dictating the narrative in the middle.

“We’re playing in the real world and we’re playing real cricket against professionals. So they’ll have plans as well. But for about 36 overs of that game we were basically sort of in control. And within the last quarter, we sort of let it slip and we ended up on the losing side. So obviously a couple of things to look at and obviously the tournament is pretty young and guys coming in and understanding what is needed at this level and stuff like that. So hopefully we can get it right,” Pollard said, acknowledging they were outclassed by a smart opposition.

© Cricbuzz

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