When Aditya Tare walked in to bat on Sunday night, the sight that welcomed him to the crease was teammate Ambati Rayudu sunk to his knees, and in tears.
If he would have craned his neck back, and slightly to the left, what he would have seen is the entire Rajasthan Royals dugout in a huddle.
Of course at this point, the issue seemed to have been settled.
Mumbai Indians had failed to reach their target in 14.3 overs, and the Royals were on their way to the playoffs. But then came the final twist in a tale that had already been a whirlwind rollercoaster.
Mumbai still had a chance of going through. The scores were tied and all Tare had to do now was to hit James Faulkner for a boundary.
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While the Rajasthan pacer was surrounded by his team’s think tank at the top of his mark, substitute Apoorv Wankhade ran in from the Mumbai dug-out with a message for Tare. In his haste he even forgot to carry the customary water bottle.
“Six nahi, four bhi chalega,” was his brief yet poignant message.
With the Wankhede Stadium engulfed in pandemonium and noise, Tare probably didn’t even hear what Wankhade had to say. For he promptly, deposited Faulkner’s next delivery-a tempting full-toss on his pads-over the backward square-leg fence.
The 26-year-old Mumbai batsman had just orchestrated a near-miracle, enabling the defending IPL champions to do the same by qualifying for the playoffs.
Speaking after the match, Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma revealed the confusion that prevailed in both dug-outs, with the match situation having sent the statisticians into a frenzy.
“When (Ambati) Rayudu was run out (with the scores tied in 14.3 overs), we did not know exactly (who qualified). We did not know the match could be tied in 14.3.
We wanted to win in 14 or 14.2 or thought we would lose, but never thought it could tie on 14.3. The big screen flashed it but I was not watching it. But our analysts were working constantly and we knew we had to hit a boundary on the next ball to get our net run-rate ahead of Rajasthan Royals,” Sharma said.
Though for a brief moment, the Royals did seem to believe that they had somehow sneaked through, that wasn’t to be.
Rahul Dravid, the team mentor, recalled the emotional rollercoaster that his dug-out was going through with dismay.
“We thought we won the game at one stage. Still we had to bowl one ball and they hit a boundary. You can just imagine the emotions. There was sheer disappointment in their camp, joy in our camp (when scores were tied) and then suddenly a ball later that was completely reversed,” said Dravid.
Not many even gave Mumbai a realistic chance of chasing down 190 at a required rate of over 13 runs-an-over to overtake Rajasthan’s net run-rate. But like Sharma said later, his team had achieved a similarly improbable target during the previous year’s Champions League.
And it helped to bank on that happy memory.
But still, the Royals were certainly the favourites going into the second innings of the match. In the end, their bowlers might well have to take all the blame for having failed to defend it within the stipulated overs.
Especially, the seamers, led by Faulkner who twice missed his length in the crucial last over, providing full-tosses to both Rayudu and Tare on their pads.
Keeping heads high
Eventually, as Shane Watson and his team stood shell-shocked, even the unflappable Dravid lost his cool, throwing his cap away in disgust. But some of the Rajasthan players did reveal that the former India captain regained his composure once the dust had settled on the match, and even gave his team a pep-talk, asking them to keep their heads high despite the shocking reversal.
“It was pretty disappointing to finish like this. But credit to them. They batted really well. To chase 190 in 14.3 overs, in fact make 195 in 14.3 overs, is a phenomenal achievement.
It was a good wicket but we did not execute our plans very well. We did not bowl our areas as well as we should have,” Dravid later told reporters.
With wickets falling at regular intervals, it did seem for a while that Rajasthan had done enough to deny Mumbai a miraculous entry into the playoffs. But Corey Anderson and Rayudu with generous help from the visitors’ bowlers made sure that the improbable was attained.
All a despondent Dravid could do in the end was lament about those crucial times in the match that his team failed to capitalize on.
He said, “After (MI captain) Rohit (Sharma) got out and when (Ambati) Rayudu and Anderson batted there was a period of 12-15 balls when we suddenly gave away 50 runs. That was a critical phase. We could have bowled a couple of better overs.”