Mumbai Indians batsmen need to stick around for a while before playing shots, said the team’s spin-bowling spearhead Harbhajan Singh after the defending champions slumped to a nine-wicket defeat against IPL debutants Rising Pune Supergiants in the season-opener in Mumbai. (Fixtures | Squads)
“We did not bat as well as we should have. It was a tough game for us. Mumbai wicket is probably the best to bat on. Poor shot selection made us where we landed. We just need to work on our game a bit more,” said the experienced bowler at his post-game media conference at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday night.
MI were in deep trouble at 68 for 7, having lost their top four batsmen inside five overs for 30 runs, before the feisty Harbhajan counter-punched to make an unbeaten 30-ball 45 and lead the score to 121 for 8.
Pune easily chased down the target of 122, riding on opener Ajinkya Rahane’s classy 42-ball unbeaten 66.
“Sometimes we think there’s hardly any time in the middle. But we need to take more time, I feel, as a batting unit,” added Harbhajan who was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal MI opening display.
“Even as a bowling unit we need to come out with a better plan and execute it. There was nothing wrong with the wicket. It’s a great cricketing wicket and probably a top wicket. We did not play well and that’s why we are sitting not happy. Hopefully we will pull up our socks and play better cricket in future,” he added.
The off-spinner, who took 1 for 24, defended his captain Rohit Sharma’s decision to bat first instead of opting to bowl which he said was what many sides wanted to do at the Wankhede.
“It was Rohit’s decision to bat first. I go by it. As a team member we need to back his decision and go with whatever he feels is right. May be it was about less pressure on batsmen while batting first. Lots of teams like to chase here.
“He also said the absence of Sri Lankan pace spearhead Lasith Malinga, who is yet to join the team as he is recovering from a knee injury, was hurting the team a bit at the Wankhede.
“Having (Lasith) Malinga in the side here, we have defended totals of 160 or 170. I don’t know how long he is out, or if he’s out forever (for entire season),” said Harbhajan.
“(But) hopefully over the next few games we need to read the wicket better and play better cricket, basically, even if we bat first,” he added.
Harbhajan did not think the team was one batsman short and felt the best combination for MI was five bowlers and six batsmen, at the Wankhede tracks.
“I don’t think we were one batsman short. We want to go with six batters and five proper bowlers. This is our strength at Wankhede, this is how we have won games here and that’s the plan we have to back up and hopefully we will come out strong nest time.
“In 20-20 format you need to go with six batters who can play 20 overs. I can bat a bit, obviously Shreyas (Gopal), Vinay (Kumar), (Mitchell) McClenaghan, all can bat.
“Depending on the wicket we get in Kolkata (against Knight Riders on April 13) there could be some changes. I am not one to select the team, but I am always there to give my feedback about what combination should be. As a senior player they obviously ask me what I feel and I give my suggestion what combination should be,” he added.
Harbhajan said he cannot explain the reason why MI start on a losing streak before turning things around as they did last season by losing the first five and then storming to the title.
“I wish I know the reason, we would like to have won the first game and start on a good note. We tried our best whatever total we had on board. Hopefully from next game onwards we will get the result we were looking for. It should not be like five games MI don’t play well and then we suddenly wake up and start playing well. Hopefully it will happen in Kolkata.”
He also said it was a conscious decision he had made to bowl slower through the air at the Wankhede, as otherwise he has gone for plenty of runs along with several other slow bowlers.
“I have been bowling like this over the last 3-4 seasons in IPL, at a similar pace. I want batsmen to come out of the crease and take chances because if I am bowling fast it’s easier (for batsmen) especially on such wickets and small boundaries,” said Harbhajan.
“As a spinner you should always invite batsmen to come out and play the shots. As they are coming out you might get him out or not, but you are there in the game. But if you bowl fast especially on this wicket you will go for plenty. I have seen lot of bowlers going for runs. I have gone for lot of runs.
“I have tried everything in the nets. This is the best pace to bowl at Wankhede. You might go for 40-odd runs, but you are giving yourself a chance to get a wicket or two,” he said.