Just two games into Indian Premier League-8, Harbhajan Singh has no qualms in admitting that Mumbai Indians rely heavily on skipper Rohit Sharma to set the stage for their chases.
On Sunday, Mumbai Indians suffered their second successive loss after going down by 18 runs to Kings XI Punjab while chasing the visitor's 178-run target at their fortress Wankhede Stadium.
Rohit, who scored an unbeaten 98 in the IPL-8 opener against KKR, failed to score after being done in by an inswinging beauty from Sandeep Sharma off the second ball of MI's innings. A collapse ensued.
The Mumbai Indians take on a buoyant Rajasthan Royals at Ahmedabad's Sardar Patel Stadium today. And though the Mumbai franchise has many big-hitters in their middle order, Harbhajan believes MI's fortunes depend heavily on the start provided by Rohit.
Rohit Sharma in full flow against KKR last Wednesday. Pic/BCCI
"Losing Rohit up front was a big blow for us as he's not only our best batsman, but a class player. If he gets going, we chase runs easily. Corey Anderson and Kieron Pollard are there to do the job (in the middle order), but we still want Rohit to give us the start and if he gets going, no total looks difficult," Harbhajan said at the post-match press conference after Sunday's defeat.
Thanks to Harbhajan's 100-run stand (off 34 balls) with debutant Jagadeesha Suchith, MI averted a heavy defeat in the end.
Harbhajan's 24-ball 64 (5x4s and 6x6s) turned the match around dramatically and brought MI close to KXIP's 178, and he was happy to have contributed with the bat. "I was trying my best to come close to the game. Unfortunately, I could not finish it off.
Mumbai Indians players warm-up during a practice session at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad yesterday. Pic/Nirav Trivedi
When I came to the wicket, I decided that if the ball falls in my area I will hit it. The wicket here is good for playing shots. They bowled in the areas that I was looking to hit," said Harbhajan, who came in to bat at 59 for six and slammed the fastest 50 (off 19 balls) by a MI player.
'Gave too many runs'
"Mumbai's strength has always been the first six overs while bowling. We gave away too many runs. Viru (Virender Sehwag) was going very strong and so was (Murali) Vijay. We pulled things (back) and I felt 170 on this wicket was chaseable. It was always going to be tough when you are 25 for four and 46 for five. It always became a chasing game from that point," Harbhajan said.
"We could've had a different result, but lost too many wickets up front. One early partnership could've got us out of trouble, but it didn't happen. Credit to the Punjab bowlers as they bowled really well," added Harbhajan, who bowled a brilliant spell himself — 4-0-20-2 to pull Punjab back a bit.