Thrilled at the defeat of their main challengers — Rajasthan Royals — for the remaining play-off spot, key Mumbai Indians player Kieron Pollard said on Saturday that a crunch IPL game is on Sunday against the Jaipur franchise at the Wankhede Stadium.
Fourth-placed Rajasthan lost to table-toppers Kings XI Punjab at Mohali to allow fifth-ranked Mumbai stay in the hunt for a play-off berth.
Pollard said the team was glued to its TV sets.
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“Obviously we were all happy and excited. We were all watching that game in the rooms or wherever we were, glued to the game. We knew from the moment Rajasthan lose we are in with another chance,” said the big-hitting West Indian at an ‘Adidas Meet and Greet fans’ session in Mumbai.
“We would have liked Rajasthan to have lost a little more worse, by 30-40 runs, but it did not happen. So there is a game on tomorrow (Sunday),” said Pollard about Royals’ 16-run loss against Kings XI Punjab.
“We have to think about so many mathematical equations, but the first priority is winning. Once we put ourselves in that position to win, then we can try to achieve whatever target we need to. We are looking forward to that,” he said referring to Royals’ superior net run-rate and extra points (14 as compared to MI’s 12 with one game in hand).
The strongly built Trinidadian said that returning to their favourite home ground — Wankhede — was one of the key factors in MI’s dramatic turnaround in fortunes.
“Since we got to India things have turned around for us. We all know we did not do too well in Dubai. The key was coming to Wankhede. We are accustomed to playing there. We like playing there. Players who have been with Mumbai for a long period of time love it there. That was one key thing,” he said.
The title holders had lost five straight games in the first phase of the tournament in the United Arab Emirates. Pollard credited the turnaround to team work.
“The other thing was sticking together as a group. There weren’t any bickerings or arguments. We stuck together, worked hard and practiced with the same intensity as at the start of the tournament. Luck (too) started to follow us a little bit.
“Yes, we had a couple of hiccups (defeats) in between, but that’s part and parcel of sport. You have to accept the good with the bad. We have accepted that we had done badly in Dubai. We tried to change it around. The most we can do now is continue winning, win tomorrow and see where it takes us,” said Pollard.
Pollard said winning on Sunday against the Royals would be enough for them to get past the third team still in the race for the play-off – Sunrisers Hyderabad – who have a negative net run-rate, worse than MI’s.
“If we have to qualify we have to win. We are above Sunrisers in terms of run-rate. They are minus whatever, so even if they win they have to win really big in order to go past us in terms of run-rate.
“They will be in front of us on points, but if we win tomorrow (Sunday) then we will be on similar points and then the run rate comes into place. There are the analysts, the mentors, coaches etc to do all those (calculations). We have to go there and produce on the field,” he said.
Asked about fellow-West Indian Chris Gayle’s tweet that he (Pollard) had copied his style in taking spectacular catches, after he had sent back another Caribbean Kevon Cooper, playing for Rajasthan Royals with a fantastic catch on the boundary line, Pollard said in a lighter vein that he has learned so many things from Royal Challengers’ Gayle.
“Chris is an entertainer. He’s a very good friend of mine playing for West Indies. He’s just joking and having fun. He has done a lot of great things on the cricket field. I would like to copy some of the things he has done on the cricket field as well. I don’t see that (tweet) as a problem.”
Asked whether he trained specially to take such acrobatic catches, Pollard merely said that it’s routine.
“I just practice normally. We do what we need to do to prepare for any game. Jonty Rhodes (Former South African player) is our fielding coach and we try different things. For me last year and this year it has been coming off. I thank god for that and hope they (catches) continue to stick.”
Pollard, a big fan of football, said he would support France in the FIFA World Cup starting next month.
“Yes, of course. I love football. I got injured playing football. That should tell you something. I follow football, I will follow France. I follow Manchester United also. It has been a disappointing year for us (ManU fans).”