Mumbai: Kieron Pollard, who played a stellar role in Mumbai Indians' comprehensive win over Chennai Super Kings that paved the way for their entry into the final of IPL-8, says his team played near-flawless cricket here.
Kieron Pollard. Pic/AFP
Mumbai Indians defeated two-time winners CSK by 25 runs in the first qualifier at the Wankhede Stadium last night, with Pollard blazing his way to a 17-ball 41. "We played one of our most perfect games today, barring a couple of dropped catches which obviously needs improvement. Having said that, coming out and winning that and going directly into the final from where we were, I think, is a marvellous achievement for us as a team," said the big-built West Indian all-rounder whose whirlwind knock included five towering sixes.
Pollard was alluding to MI's amazing run to the final after a very poor start when they lost four games in a row before getting their act together to notch up nine wins in the next 11 games. MI rode on Pollard's end-innings belligerence following his Trinidadian compatriot Lendl Simmons' 65 at the top to rake up 187 for six, which proved too much for their rivals who folded up for 162 with an over to spare. "187 was a good total. On this ground it was par.
We had a couple of runs to play with. We knew Chennai is a good team. They came here during the league stages and demolished us. "They scored 190 or 200 and they smoked it in 15-16 overs. We were up for a game, we knew what was in front of us and what we needed to do and as a team... I am stressing on team as it was a team effort, we are here where we are now."
The West Indian described veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh's double strike to send back Suresh Raina and CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni off successive balls in the 11th over as the turning point in the game. "We wanted to start well, got a couple of wickets as well. Bhaji, of course, did not start well in the first couple
of overs, but after that third over he changed the game for us. Getting those two wickets was absolutely masterly.
Raina and Dhoni's they can change the game in a couple of balls," noted Pollard. While Harbhajan got 2 for 26, pace spearhead Lasith Malinga was the most successful bowler and returned figures of 3 for 33. "It was a total team effort. He bowled well, Vinay Kumar bowled well, Malinga bowled well. Mitch (McClenaghan) went
around the park but he got a vital wicket (Ravindra Jadeja) in the end. Everything adds up in the end.
"What's good for us is we won as a team's openers (Simmons and Parthiv Patel) set the foundation for us (with a 90-run stand). They have been doing that in the last couple of games. Yes, we got a bit of a stutter but this is what Twenty20 cricket is all about. It's all about playing as a team and finishing it off as a team," he emphasised. Pollard described how the team turned it around after four straight losses.
"We looked at it as a boxing match. From the start of this month we knew we had to win one round after one round after one round. Getting that opportunity to finish second puts us in a position where we basically had to win two games to reach the finals. We spoke about (the need to) continue to be ruthless. "It's good for us, but the most disappointing part is after first four games a lot of people had written us off. It was (also) a blessing in disguise for us. As (head coach) Ricky (Ponting) has emphasised, we have not done much differently. All we had done is come and play competitive cricket.
"Management, players staff everyone decided let's give it our shot and here we are into the finals. Congratulations to the team. We have played good cricket in last month or so." To a query what the team lacked initially, Pollard alluded to the nature of the tournament. "I don't think anything was lacking. This is franchise
cricket. You have to understand that. A group of guys coming together two-three days before tournament and sometimes the team which adapts quickly will have the momentum.
Mumbai Indians, over the last two years, have been unable to start well in the tournament but we have been able to finish well. "What we need to look at is trying to start the tournament on a much higher percentage of wins. Having said that, if we are in this position and we have to play like this and it's enough to reach the final, we will take that every year. "But, as I said, it's franchisee cricket. We are not playing together as a team. New players come in every year.
You have to give it some time. Some teams click faster. Chennai have a settled unit and so they are always consistent. But at the end of the day we're in the finals, that's what is most important." Pollard also took an indirect dig at his critics. "A lot of people say a lot of things. I look for motivation and lot of people said before the tournament Pollard is a spent force, Pollard is this Pollard is that, Pollard is done. It's not about proving them wrong.
I know myself what I can do and quietly I have been able to be consistent for the team, whichever the situation it is. "When I had time to bat I batted at time and when I did not have time to bat and we needed to go, I went. Once you play cricket with a clean heart and a clean mind things follow you again. I have been targeted again by the umpires as well, but I am just staying quiet, just trying to do my bits quietly.
I hope at the end of the day it's enough for Mumbai to take that trophy." Pollard was happy the team now gets four days' rest instead of the two they would have got had they lost last night. "I will rather have four days of rest than two days (of rest) and then play again. We are directly into the final. For us, we will take it as it comes. We are in a fortunate position. So we will do the thing we have been doing."
Asked whether the title win in 2013 when they played the final in Kolkata and won, would be a major plus, Pollard said things are different now. "We won in 2013, it's two years on and some things are totally different. We have a new team, hunger is different, but hopefully we can relive those memories. There's still a process to go in order to get that trophy. We still have to play a good game of cricket, still have to practice well and prepare well."