Mumbai Indians have been a part of two humdingers in the Indian Premier League 2018 and have ended up losing by one wicket on both occasions, the last one coming against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal on Thursday (April 12).
Like in the loss against Chennai Super Kings, it was yet again Mayank Markande, the previously unheard of legspinner, who brought Mumbai into the game. This time he took 4 for 23 to create a contest after Mumbai had been restricted to 147 for 8. Eventually, Mumbai lost off the last ball when Billy Stanlake, the No.11 batsman, swung Ben Cutting to the midwicket fence for a boundary.
As is well known by now, Markande, who currently tops the bowling charts with seven wickets, started out as a medium pace bowler before switching over to legspin. He revealed that it was the father of Jiwanjot Singh, the Punjab opener, who was instrumental in the switch.
“When I started out cricket, I used to play for fun. I was a fast bowler and there was no real interest in playing,” Markande told IPLT20.com. “My back of the hand slower ball – the googly – was coming out well, and I used to trouble Reetinder Singh Sodhi (former India allrounder) paaji. Obviously, I did not have speed because I did not have strength, so I started legspin. Jiwanjot Singh paaji’s father told me to start legspin.”
Markande made his debut for Punjab senior team in the inter-state Twenty20 tournament earlier this year under Harbhajan Singh’s captaincy. He said that spending time with Harbhajan has also benefitted his game.
“Bhajji paaji, I met him for the first time this year. He is a legend. He supported me a lot during the inter-state T20s. He always kept me in a positive space,” he added. “Every time I had some problem, he backed me. He used to share bowling plans, what I can try. I will try to learn as much as possible from him in the future also.”
It is one thing to play in front of empty stands for Punjab and another thing to be given the responsibility by a franchise’s captain in front of packed houses. Markande credited Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, for putting him at ease.
“I have good chemistry with Rohit Sharma bhaiya. He doesn’t complicate things for me. He says the way you have been bowling for your state, the way you have been doing things in the past – keep it the same and don’t try anything more. He makes me understand well,” he said. “It feels really nice. I had never thought such things will happen in my life. Last year I was sitting with my mother and watching (IPL on) TV and thinking when will I play here. Now I am playing here. It is a very good feeling. Being a Purple Cap holder is a very big thing for me. I would like to continue my performance like this in the future.”
Rashid Khan, the Hyderabad legspinner, said he was impressed with the way Markande turned the game. “He is wonderful to watch. I watched him in the first game. Today the way he bowled was amazing. Really impressed by him,” Rashid said. “Legspinners, once they get their line and length right – that’s what he did – you can bowl against any batsman in any condition. The way he bowled was really impressive in such a hard condition when you are defending such a low total. It is difficult for you to take wickets and not to give runs, but he did really well.”
Mumbai’s coaching staff has also liked what they have seen in Markande. Mahela Jayawardene was effusive in his praise for him after the first match. Shane Bond, the bowling coach, liked the way the bowlers created a contest, and said that he was hopeful of a Super Over before the last ball was bowled.
“I thought we had a pretty good chance to win on that wicket. We just needed that one wicket. Even till the last ball I was hopeful of him (Stanlake) playing one in the air and we taking the game into the Super Over,” Bond said. “We fought really well to get ourselves in the position, but were just not good enough. It was another tough loss for us. We are playing some good cricket, but also not some good cricket.”
Mumbai were looking to set up a big score, but lost four wickets for 26 runs to be 136 for 8 in 18.5 overs. Bond felt that if the batsmen had played sensibly they could have had a match-winning total.
“Today we made some decision-making errors. There were chances, if we would have played a bit smart cricket we would have got score of 160-170, which would have been really tough against our bowling attack,” he said. “We were still confident at the halfway point that we had enough runs to win the game. We didn’t start really well, but we know we have got a good bowling attack.”
Mumbai is not unknown to losing their first few matches before making a strong comeback in the tournament. They have done it so many times in the past, and Bond drew strength from that trend.
“We have enough quality in our squad to win the tournament. That’s the nature of this tournament. You hope you win and get on the other side of the ledger in such kind of games,” he said. “We haven’t for the last two, and it is tough. But we know we are only get better as well.”