The Wankhede track on which IPL debutants Rising Pune Supergiants outplayed Mumbai Indians in the season-opener was a slightly seamer-friendly wicket and that might have been the reason why premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was given just one over, said Ajinkya Rahane after his side’s win. (Fixtures | Squads)
Ashwin was given just one over, the 16th of Mumbai Indians innings, by Pune and India limited over skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Rahane said the track’s nature, different from the batsmen-friendly pitches of recent vintage, must have prompted the move though he added he really cannot answer it for certain.
“I don’t know (the reason), the captain must be knowing that. This was a different wicket as compared to the wickets we played on against the West Indies (in the WT20 semifinals on March 31) or even the ODI (5th and final in October) against South Africa,” said Rahane after the Pune side thrashed defending champions Mumbai by nine wickets on Saturday night.
“This was a slightly seamer-friendly wicket. Ashwin is an experienced bowler, a quality bowler. (But) today I felt our fast bowlers were bowling really well. It was important to take the wickets and not give many runs,” said Rahane.
Ashwin got the wicket of Ambati Rayudu with his first ball and then gave away seven runs after being belatedly introduced by skipper Dhoni in the lone over he bowled.
The same bowler had been given a two-over spell in the WT20 semifinal against the West Indies at the same venue and not asked to bowl again by Dhoni during the latter stages of the successful run-chase by the eventual champions Caribbeans.
Rahane’s classy, unbeaten 66 in 42 balls, and opening stand of 78 with South African Faf du Plessis (34) guided the Pune team past the modest target of 122 with 32 balls to spare.
“It feels good to start well in the first game. It was always important to get the momentum (going). I felt it was important to bowl well on this wicket. We thought this could be a 170 or 180 wicket before the game. But the ball was stopping a bit. We got the first 4-5 wickets early. That was very important and credit (is due) to our bowlers,” Rahane said.
“Later on my thinking was to take my time as I knew the ball was stopping and seaming a bit. I wanted to play close to my body. I did not want to take many chances, wanted to play proper cricket shots,” said Rahane who was named the man of the match.
Rahane praised his team’s overall bowling effort and the performance of debutant leggie Murugan Ashwin in particular.
“Even we were looking to bowl first and credit goes to our bowlers. They were bowling in the right areas I felt Ishant (Sharma), R P Singh, Mitchell Marsh and even Rajat Bhatia bowled really well. I think debutant M Ashwin also bowled really well under pressure. I am not sure their batsmen had played him before.”
The double strike each by Sharma and Marsh had reduced MI to 30 for four.
Bhatia and M Ashwin then got a wicket each to leave the hosts gasping at 51 for 6 before a counter-punching 45 not out in 30 balls by Harbhajan Singh pulled the Mumbai total past the 120 mark.
“Our intent was positive, we were looking for runs. But it was Important to play close to the body because it was not easy to play hard shots. It was important to time the ball on this wickets and that’s what we did,” said the Pune opener on the way his team set about chasing the small total.
“I thought in a low scoring game opening stand is very important. It was good we got 78 for the opening wicket. This was the first time I and Faf were batting together I enjoyed it,” said Rahane.
The Mumbaikar was also full of praise for former England player Kevin Pietersen for the way he was encouraged to go for his shots.
“It was fun batting with KP. When he came in, he told me to just play my shots the way I was playing and he will give me the stand. It was a very different Kevin Pietersen who was saying ‘I will give you the strike, you play your shots’. It was good he told me such things, good to have him in our team. He is an experienced cricketer in this format.”
Rahane felt the team needed one more game at least to cobble together as one.
“It was important to gel together and adjust to each other quickly as a team. We had a couple of good practice sessions. A few of us had played together for CSK (suspended Chennai Super Kings), three of us played for RR (suspended Rajasthan Royals). It’s important to play as a team and getting together will be very important.
“Frankly speaking, it will take may be one more game to gel together as a team. I feel we have a superb team, great batsmen, good experienced cricketers as well as a good bowling attack,” he said.