Mumbai v Rajasthan, IPL 2013, 2nd qualifier, Kolkata May 25, 2013

A match marred by mediocrity

This was expected to be a thrilling match between dominating superstars and everyone's favourite underdogs in front of a packed, historic ground. Instead, the IPL qualifier was filled with moments of mediocrity

This was a knockout match, a virtual semi-final. Teams that had finished second and third over the course of a 72-game league stage spanning 47 days clashed to decide which of them would take on the top-ranked side. This was expected to be thrilling, cracking Twenty20 cricket between dominating superstars and everyone's favourite underdogs in front of a packed, historic ground. What we got was an astonishing meltdown by arguably the best T20 bowler in the world, a farce of a fielding effort from Rajasthan Royals and a near-choke of a batting effort from Mumbai Indians.

All this was watched by a half-empty Eden Gardens. A week ago, on the day after the first arrests in the spot-fixing controversy had been made, a near-full house turned up at the Uppal Stadium in Hyderabad for the evening's IPL game. During the past week, cricket has been tested, and continues to be tested, off the field in a way it has seldom been before. All the stress of that scrutiny seemed to have caught up with the game on the field, too, at Eden Gardens. And witnessed by a turnout that spoke volumes with its sparseness, it seemed to just cave in to the pressure.

Lasith Malinga bowled such a huge wide down the leg side it made Steve Harmison's Ashes wide look like a yorker on middle stump. In a premonition of just how poor the night was going to be, incredibly, Malinga slung in another mammoth wide to the fine-leg boundary. He was so shocked he stared at his right hand, the same one that had sent down stump-destroying yorkers on cue through his career. This was a night of shocks all right, off the field, and on it.

One would have thought taking 18 runs off the opposition's most successful bowler would have changed the momentum in favour of Royals. If it had, the Royals players refused to take it with an apologetic display on the field. Before the game, Rahul Dravid, the Royals captain, had said the franchise did not believe in fielding, and bowling, coaches. The Royals owners have never pushed it when it comes to spending money. One wonders if this effort in a high-stakes match would make them rethink their belief.

Royals hardly appeared to be on the field. It appeared as if, along with their comfort zone, they had also left behind their fielding skills at home in Jaipur, where they had spent a few days after the spot-fixing arrests. Routine stops were fluffed. Boundaries were conceded when a single or at best a two was on. Backing-up to throws was patchy. Throws were off-target. Fielders did not run in from the deep quickly enough. For three-fourths of the chase, Royals were not able to build any pressure. And when Mumbai Indians created some late anxiety for themselves, Brad Hodge dropped Ambati Rayudu.

That it went down to the penultimate ball was due to the inability of Mumbai Indians to shake off the impression that, for all their might, they choke under pressure. They had a start of 70 for 0 in nine overs in a chase of 166. And they had to depend on Harbhajan Singh and Rishi Dhawan to finish it. Wide long-hops and half-volleys on the pads were hit straight to fielders. Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma came in at 125 for 2 with an asking-rate of seven-odd and proceeded to calmly defend ball after ball before missing an awkward slog to get bowled.

It was like he had been batting in a parallel universe, ignoring and ignoring a pressing need till he woke up and saw something drastic had to be done, but messed it up in belated haste. Not unlike what was happening outside the ground.

This was a match marred by some exceedingly mediocre play, even as surreal drama played out in the corridors of the game's administration at the same time. After a week of tensions and questions that keep piling up, cricket seemed to tell those who bothered to watch that it was tired. Tired of having to go through what it had, and of what lay in store for it. Tired of still having to put on a show every evening and behave as if nothing had happened. Tired of living in a parallel universe.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shrinivas on May 26, 2013, 13:22 GMT

    Fully agree with last could make out by the way good fielders such as rahane missing at point....and I never saw malinga bowling such a big wide

  • asha prakash on May 25, 2013, 14:47 GMT

    It's No big secret that MI have always struggled when chasing. They're in the finals But don't actually deserve to be. In every match they've won,it's because only one person of top 5 has scored massively and others haven't. And the matches they've lost have been such poor,not at all mediocre,display of cricket that it necessitates the need to rethink their batting capabilities. Wickets have been thrown away. Catches have been dropped. No doubt they're the team with highest 6s in IPL.But undoubtedly they're the team with highest DOT Balls too. They've won matches because of some magic. It's time for self-reassessment and some introspection.

  • Cricket on May 25, 2013, 14:42 GMT

    There is no mediocrity when 165 runs are chased down in Kolkotta and the match decided in the 19.5 over. It is called a nail biter. Even Bollywood writers could not have scripted so much drama into almost all 75 matches. Also the fourth place in play-offs being decided only on the very last game of the season. RCB again missing out so closely despite the heroics of Gayle and Kohli. Rajasthan almost making it to the finals. SRH making it to the four with its bowling. The top team in the points table last year ending up as the last team this year. And the most consistent team in IPL again making it to the finals. Just as ODI format resuscitated interest in test cricket earlier, T20, and especially IPL is doing the same now. ODI was much criticised then and IPL has taken its place. It is not a stretch to say that IPL counts as perhaps the greatest accomplishment of India in the global business arena.

  • vas on May 25, 2013, 10:51 GMT

    72 league matches. Each team has matches almost every other day. Then all the travelling.different hotels.then training. Indian summer heat.How can they keep the intensity? It is remarkable that many matches are played with high intensity and in good spirit. May be next year with 8 teams there will be only 56 league matches.

  • venkat on May 25, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    RR didn't deserve to win yesterday with their plays, but MI tried to give it to them anyway. The author has missed many important aspects of the game. MI were ahead almost the entire game until the last 4 overs. In addition to the many points raised by @FanByHeart, poor batting and temperament at the crease by Rohit Sharma and Kevon Cooper. At least Rohit's team was decently placed, but given RR's position at that time Kevon Cooper's 2-ball innings was atrocious. Ojha also bowled too many in the slot. Yagnik, Binny, and Dwayne Smith were excellent with the bat.

  • Dummy4 on May 25, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    i dont agree with d author, although few mistakes did happen from both d teams. but mediocrity is not d right word i guess. this is sport & mistakes do happen. there will b some stunning catches & lull drops on someday. bowlers will b terrific one day & things may go horribly wrong some otherday. it was a high octane match & both d teams were fighting tooth & nail 2 win. congraats MI, they were a betterside & deservedly won.

  • Arun on May 25, 2013, 9:07 GMT

    it seems like everybody is disturbed by MI reaching the finals. last year when KKR won all their home matches nobody made noise, prior to that CSK when they won all their home matches and reached finals nobody had a problem. suddenly people are mourning the arrival of MI in the finals. people have credited all the players left right and center and when it comes to praising the MI players, people go miser. have not SA chocked in the WC knockout games and unfortunately never able to reach the finals so far. so the pressure to do better and succeed is always there and it was a chase. the best of the teams fumble in crunch matches. people praised the attitude the Kohli when RCB won, and that i always believed that the heroics of one hurricane cannot destroy the all the inhabitants like wise Gayle could not take the team to the playoffs, last year it was a team effort, this year it was a one man show kohlii and ABD chipped in some times. respect the palyers. Cricket is a team game.

  • joel on May 25, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    One wonders how many runs Smith could have scored in this year, had he been allowed to start the tournament, instead of persisting with the "Pon-dulkar" combination.

  • Harshad on May 25, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Dear author, appears that the off-field developments have taken a toll on you more than anything else. An article filled with negativity. No mention of Yagnik who batted so innovatively and under pressure. No mention of Binny's superb cameo. No mention of how the wily Bhajji put MI in the driver's seat. No mention of how Rishi Dhawan scored that crucial four on the first ball under intense pressure; the result of the match would've probably been different had the bat come down a fraction late. No mention of how well Tare played once again nor about Smith who played a much more mature knock this time staying true to the intent expressed in the pre-match interview.

    Mate, there is bound to be pressure in a high-profile match. If it can happen to Klusener and Donald and Gibbs in a WC semi-final, this is much lesser.

    For me, it was a matter of time before the drama unfolded and the suspense was thoroughly entertaining as the game progressed and reached the climax.

    Be positive, mate.

  • Kapil on May 25, 2013, 7:31 GMT

    Apart from fielding disastrous, I think performance of their overseas players was not up to the mark. Whether it is 20 ball 19 from "Big" hitting Hodge, failure of Watson as a bowler more than a batsman. Though Dravid is getting a bit of more sympathetic response from the audience since the "shameful" act is happened in the IPL because everyone from the cricket fraternity including the audience respects his honesty. And he really did well with whatever their remains with him, but some tactical mistake have been committed by him yesterday. Cooper, as displayed earlier he's more capable with bat was given less balls, he should have came earlier than Samson, who was out of form in the previous game. Ignoring the fine leg fence which proved to be fatal in the last over and most importantly giving Malik 4 overs in a slot, he could have been given some rest after 3 overs and can be brought back after the fall of wicket. Not including Tambe in playing 11 I thought was also a mistake.

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