Mumbai Indians off-spinner reveals to mid-day the kind of influence chief coach Ricky Ponting had on IPL-8 champs MI
After a string of four losses at the start of the Indian Premier League-8, reaching the play-offs looked like MI — Mission Impossible — for Mumbai Indians. However, Rohit Sharma & Co turned the tables dramatically as they not only ended the league stage by taking second position in the points tally but also stormed into the final and won it convincingly to bag their second IPL title on Sunday.
Mumbai Indians' Harbhajan Singh celebrates the dismissal of CSK skipper MS Dhoni at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on May 19 Pic/Atul Kamble
Senior India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who has been part of both of MI's triumphs, in 2013 and now, spoke to mid-day on Mumbai Indians' rollercoaster season yesterday, and how they made the impossible task possible.
Q. Which was more special — winning the IPL in 2013 or 2015?
A. Both are very special. Winning IPL is not easy as the competition is very good. The way we fought back was incredible. After losing the first four games, every one gave more than 100 per cent. From thereon, things started to look differently. We didn't panic, we stayed together which worked for us. We backed each other when things weren't going well for us. That helped us win the IPL-8.
Q. Is this triumph sweeter than the one in 2013, considering every match for you was virtually a knockout after a poor first half of the league?
A. Whatever you win is always very special. Both have their own stories. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of both triumphs. In 2013, we won the IPL for the first time and it has a different story as well.
Q. Did the team relive the 2013 final, which was also played against CSK at Kolkata?
A. The Eden Gardens is very special for me and some of my other teammates. We won our first title here. It helps when you come at the same venue and refresh your memory… what you did, how you felt. We had that (2013 final) in our mind but we were of course playing a very good team like CSK.
Q. Was the win against Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 25 at Wankhede Stadium a tournament-changing moment for MI?
A. As a bowling unit, we did a tremendous job. When you start winning games like that it gives you confidence. As a unit, you start believing in yourself. All you need is to just back yourself every time and give more than what you can. We (the bowlers) took the responsibility that no matter what the total on board, we will give our all.
Q. What did coach Ricky Ponting and MI icon Sachin Tendulkar tell the team when you did not fare well?
A. From the first day, Ricky urged us to believe that we were playing in the final and winning it. That should be our goal. Even after four consecutive losses, he said my goal hasn't changed. 'No matter what, we have to turn the tide,' he said. One game changed our mindset. One win gave us a lot of confidence. Sachin, Ricky and Anil (Kumble), who are true champions of the game, gave us the right impetus to go forward. Even experienced support staff members like Robin Singh helped us perform at our best. Ricky always backed us to play freely. That's what was needed.
Q. You also had a satisfying season, finishing with 18 wickets this IPL...
A. I just kept things simple. I did not do too many things and bowled according to the situation. I looked to take wickets whenever the team wanted me to bowl. As bowlers, we should know our responsibilities. In this competition it is important to go for wickets and not look to contain the batsmen. You might get hit, but it is important to keep attacking. It helps the team. It is not just this IPL, I did well in the last two IPLs too. When you win, your performances get noticed. Like Ashish Nehra... he is an unsung hero for CSK this season. He has done well in the previous IPLs too, but his performances are getting noticed this time.
Q. Was the India selection on your mind after playing just three first-class matches in the season?
A. That's what I play for. My aim has always been to play for the Indian team. When I am playing in the IPL, the aim is to win the trophy and also to get back into the Indian side. I am glad I was able to do that this time.