Mumbai: On Thursday, former India and Team Pune skipper Sourav Ganguly paid rich compliments to Harbhajan Singh for the way he captained Team Mumbai in the IPL opener against Chennai. On Friday, it was Bhajji’s turn to return the favour. After marshalling his troops to perfection, Ganguly displayed some vintage captaincy deploying spinners to choke the famed Team Mumbai batting line-up and set off Pune’s IPL-5 campaign on a rollicking note.
Even though Harbhajan backed his decision to bowl first after wining the toss, he congratulated Ganguly for his ability and vision which helped him judge how effective spin would be on a baked Wankhede track in the second innings.
“Dada (Sourav) was a special captain for India and he showed once again today why he’s still the best captain ever. There are not many matchwinners in his side, but his ability to identify talent, give responsibility to players and sense their usefulness is amazing. The bowling changes that he made today were simply excellent,” said Harbhajan.
The hosts got a perfect start by restricting Pune to 129-9. Almost every bowler got their name on the board, but a calamitous show with the bat derailed their chase.
“We bowled well and 129 was easily chaseable. We didn’t start well. Losing two wickets within two overs put the brakes on us. Honestly, we were playing catch-up from there on,” Harbhajan said.
Mumbai’s score read 2-2 after 1.1 overs after Ashok Dinda and Murali Kartik’s early strikes. It plummeted to 5 for 3 after two overs. Dinesh Karthik and James Franklin’s fourth-wicket alliance gave hope as the two put together 49 runs when Kartik dismissed Karthik. It was a dramatic 11th over. Karthik swept Kartik for four off the second ball, the two exchanged words as the Mumbai batsman pushed for a single in the third. Karthik charged down off the fifth ball, missed the line and Robin Uthappa did the rest.
“We had some hope till Karthik was at the crease. His wicket was somewhat the turning point for us,” Harbhajan observed.
The wicket took turn from the first innings itself, quite unlike the traditional Wankhede pitch. Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh picked a wicket each. But that the wicket would assist spinners more prominently in the second innings was unexpected.
“I wouldn’t call the wicket bad. Nothing was wrong with it. It spun, bounced – It was a perfect deck to play Twenty20. We failed to execute our plan, that’s all,” Harbhajan said.
The Team Mumbai skipper lamented the loss of Sachin Tedulkar for this match who had to sit out due to injury in the IPL opener against Team Chennai.
“We surely missed Tendulkar. Had he been there he would have guided us better to chase this target (130). The planning, I am sure, would have been much better. But it’s time others started taking responsibility,” Harbhajan said.