Match Analysis

Super Romario plays to the tutari to signal Mumbai Indians' arrival

Nothing had gone right for Mumbai Indians before the game against Delhi Capitals, and the win on Sunday could be the start of good things for them

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
The tutari - a traditional blowhorn in Maharashtra - that rang out at the Wankhede Stadium an over after Mumbai Indians' powerplay was symbolic in many ways. It wasn't quite to announce the arrival of an important figure, as in times past, but a signal of things changing for MI.
MI headed into the game against Delhi Capitals on the back of three successive losses with seemingly nothing working for them. The bowlers were leaking runs; the batters were unable to do anything of note; the pre-season captaincy change had turned their large fan-base against them, or at least against new captain Hardik Pandya. With most of the stands filled by 18,000 children from various NGOs across the city, as part of MI's CSR initiative, the powerplay - where MI blitzed to 75 for 0 - was a sign of things to come. The death-overs assault added to the mood, and by the end of the evening, MI had turned a page and stalled their losing run.
What might please them the most is that the win was crafted primarily by Romario Shepherd, who was only playing his first full game for Mumbai, with assistance from Rohit Sharma, Tim David and Jasprit Bumrah. They had, after all, shunned the template they had played with so far by bringing in two overseas allrounders - Mohammad Nabi to go with Shepherd - and relied more on their Indian batters to deliver.
Suryakumar Yadav's return after a four-month absence allowed MI that luxury.
The tutari played just as he walked out to bat at the end of the seventh over. That his return lasted all of two balls did not eventually make a difference to the five-time champions' fortunes on the day. But something did seem to have changed.
Rohit continued to trust his plan of going hard at the start of the innings. His first boundary attempt was also a sign - he scooped Ishant Sharma over short fine-leg on the fourth ball he faced. Jhye Richardson, playing his first game of the season, was greeted with successive sixes. Rohit pumped six fours and three sixes inside the powerplay and narrowly missed out on a half-century.
Ishan Kishan complemented Rohit, and kept the attack going. Anything short and angled into him was dispatched over the on side; anything wide was crashed over point. Along with Rohit, he added 80 in just seven overs.
Most teams have been targeting the field restrictions in the powerplay to get a headstart this season, and MI did just that. Their 75 was the second-best for them in the powerplay this season - after the 76 for 2 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in that 523-run game - and the third-highest by any team batting first in IPL 2024.
"When you're in the back end and there's only 18 balls [he walked in with 13 left], you will only face about seven, eight or nine of those. You have to maximise and hit it as well as you can. Whenever you're in that kind of role, you're even more dangerous"
Romario Shepherd
But some hit-the-deck fast bowling and a couple of thrifty overs from Axar Patel saw Mumbai slip from 80 for 0 to 121 for 4. It didn't help that Hardik wasn't at his fluent best despite showing glimpses of his batting mettle.
Enter Shepherd. He has been working on his batting with batting coach and former West Indies team-mate Kieron Pollard. The only message to Shepherd from the team management was "hold your shape and hit the ball with a clear mind," as Shepherd said later. He had only a shade over two overs left, which left little scope for any ambiguity.
"When you're in the back end and there's only 18 balls [he walked in with 13 left], you will only face about seven, eight or nine of those. You have to maximise and hit it as well as you can," Shepherd explained. "Whenever you're in that kind of role, you're even more dangerous, having to just 'see-ball-hit-ball'."
Along with David, who finished unbeaten on 45 off 21, Shepherd added 53 off just 13 balls. He blasted 32 off the last over - the second-most expensive last over in IPL history - bowled by Anrich Nortje, hitting two fours and four sixes to finish undefeated on 39 off ten balls. MI got 84 in the last four overs, the most in the 17-to-20-over period in IPL 2024 and the second-highest in the 16-year history of the tournament. The cameo also meant that MI's bowlers had enough to play with on a flat track where the boundaries on either side were more or less equidistant.
That cushion came into play in the chase, thanks to local boy Prithvi Shaw. He attacked both pace and spin, and his 88-run partnership with Abishek Porel kept DC's hopes - and the cheers from the hospitality box where some of the players' families sat - alive.
But all it took was a couple of blows from Bumrah to dash it all. He speared in a 141.3kph yorker that made a mess of Shaw's stumps, and then had Porel miscue a 143kph full toss in his next over.
While shaking hands after the match, DC captain Rishabh Pant punched Shepherd's biceps in jest. Pollard enveloped Shepherd in a bear hug. Tristan Stubbs, who hit an exhilarating 25-ball 71 not out in the chase, seemed eager to exchange a few notes with him. Shepherd had walked away with the Player-of-the-Match award, and readily obliged.
Just days before Gudi Padwa, the new year for Maharashtra's Hindus, MI had announced their fresh start. And one of their new recruits had sounded the tutari.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Sudarshanan7