The post match media interactions with Mumbai Magicians coach MK Kaushik follow a pattern. Before he delves into the details of the match, the coach slumps into his chair and apologises. It’s hard not to sympathise with him; the helplessness on his face became evident with every passing game. Mumbai’s rather listless performance this season has forced him to adopt this ritual.
It was slightly different on Sunday, though. Kaushik was a relieved man. The glum look on his face was replaced with a beaming smile. He leapt in joy as the hooter sounded for the final time and hugged his captain, Glenn Turner. Not only had he managed to outfox national coach Terry Walsh’s side but also because, after eight heartbreaking defeats, Mumbai Magicians had finally managed to win. In a battle of wooden-spooners, Mumbai beat fellow-strugglers and tournament debutantes Kalinga Lancers 3-2 at the Mahindra Stadium to register their maiden win this season.
It’s tough to point out one specific reason for Mumbai’s dismal season; it’s been a collective failure. The team has played well in patches, especially in the first halves of every match. But if there was one area where other teams have outclassed them, it is the midfield. Mumbai have lacked a player in the centre of the turf who can control the game — like Sardar Singh for Delhi Waveriders, Moritz Fuerste for Ranchi Rhinos or Jamie Dwyer for Punjab Warriors. Of course, Glenn Turner has played his heart out but he has been their lone warrior and often isolated up front.
For once, it all came together against the Lancers on Sunday. Yes, the margin of victory was narrow but Mumbai never really looked under pressure and appeared to be in control of the situation even when they had their backs to the wall in the final few minutes. Goalkeeper David Harte made four sharp saves in the final three minutes and young Gurjinder Singh did a decent job defending his line.
The match overall cried for quality and justified both team’s position in the table. Lancers have had their problems but have been better of the two sides through the course of this tournament. Being their debut season, Walsh has been content trying out various combinations, not fretting over the results. But they held the edge over Mumbai going into their final game of the season but looked jaded and lacked ambition.
Struggling for rhythm
Both sides cancelled each other out and happily parked themselves in the middle of the turf in the opening quarter. They struggled to conjure one decent move or put together three good passes. Goalkeepers were hardly disturbed and defenders were happy just to slap the ball as far away from the ‘D’ as they could.
One hoped that Turner’s hit from a goalmouth melee in the 17th minute would open up the game. Alas, that was hardly the case. Mumbai doubled their lead in the 33rd minute via Mark Gleghorne and for the first time in the tournament, went into the half time with a healthy 2-0 lead.
Lancers tried to stage a comeback at the change of ends after Mohammad Nizammudin scored in the 43rd minute. But Mumbai got their grip back and Ravipal Singh restored the two-goal cushion in the 57th minute. Lucas Vila pulled one back for Lancers in the next minute but Mumbai held on for the remaining 12 minutes and Harte’s heroics in the closing stages ensured their win.
Suddenly, Mumbai have a reason to go all out in their final group match against UP Wizards in Lucknow on Tuesday. A win there would help them finish above Lancers in the table. And going by their season has gone, it would be quite an achievement if they managed that.