When Australia toured the West Indies last year,Shane Watson had been marked out as the home sides main target. Whenever the all-rounder walked to the crease on that tour,he was welcomed with a barrage of sweet nothings from a number of the fielders,with Kieron Pollard taking the lead.
On Wednesday,the mind games were renewed at the Wankhede Stadium,as Pollard reminded Watson of exactly what he thought of him even before he had marked his guard. It was a crucial juncture in the contest. In pursuit of 167,Rajasthan Royals had been reduced to 26/3 within five overs. And as has been the case for a major part of IPL VI,the visitors fortunes rested on Watsons shoulders.
It took some time for the face-off to get sorted out,with Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma and the umpires intervening while Pollard stood at point sporting a mischievous grin. Even after play commenced,the chirping didnt quite stop. Watson vented his angst with a few typically hard-hit strokes,including two consecutive hooks over the ropes off Lasith Malinga,but there were signs that Pollard had succeeded in rubbing him the wrong way.
The Royals talisman,otherwise renowned for his ability to pace his innings in the T20 format,looked hurried and was never in control. As fate would have it,when Watson fell to the bowling of Pragyan Ojha,it was Pollard who grabbed onto the skier. The send-off was vociferous with the Trinidadian going ballistic. The war of words wasnt over as yet,as Pollard provoked Watson again. The Australian stormed out of the dug-out before being subdued by Rahul Dravid.
Pollards umpteenth display of his athleticism didnt just win him his personal battle,but also helped Mumbai Indians get rid of a major obstacle. With Watson gone,Mumbai looked like they would end the league phase with their perfect run at home intact. Stuart Binny and Brad Hodge provided a glimmer of hope for the Royals with late assaults and an enterprising partnership,but it wasnt enough as Mumbai made it 8-0 at Wankhede with a 14-run victory. The Mumbai attack did what their captain expected of them,with all five chipping in with wickets and taking their team to the top of the points tally.
While the likes of Rohit,Pollard and Dinesh Karthik have generally led with the bat for the home team,Mumbai found a new hero earlier in the evening,in local boy Aditya Tare. The right-hander,who replaced the injured Sachin Tendulkar,started off slowly,allowing the explosive Glenn Maxwell to show some fraction of his million-dollar worth. But Tare came of age following the Australians departure. He commenced his attack with a straight six off Watson.
Tare survived a dropped chance when Dravid let a regulation catch slip through his fingers when still on 24. He made the most of this life,smashing four more boundaries and bringing up his half-century off just 30 balls.