Blame Rohit Sharma for Mumbai’s loss to Delhi at Kotla. Just like MS Dhoni’s ugly innings against the Royal Challengers, Rohit bungled the chase against the Daredevils. He Arsenal-ed it trying to pace his innings ‘perfectly’.
But Mumbai didn’t lose the game. Delhi won it. Zaheer Khan won it for them.
Mumbai were in control till the 12th over. Krunal Pandya was hitting the ball hard and long. Rohit, anchoring the chase, rotated the strike.
Enter Zaheer Khan, the fielder.
Rohit defended a ball off his ribs and took a couple of steps forward. Krunal, looking for the strike, dashed down the pitch. Zaheer Khan picked up the ball in his follow-through, turned and knocked the stumps down at the bowler’s end.
He did all that without injuring himself.
In came Jos Buttler. 60-runs needed off 40 balls. Rohit and Buttler in the middle, Kieron Pollard to come. Mumbai clearly had the upper hand.
Enter Zaheer Khan, the captain.
Zaheer brought Amit Mishra back in the 15th over. Then, he placed a slip. Buttler read the googly wrong, tried to reverse. Dot ball. Zaheer moved the mid wicket out, added a sweeper on the off-side and placed himself at short cover. Mishra bowled the googly, again. Buttler – trying to play the ball in the vacant mid wicket area – misread it, again.
In came Keiron Pollard. In came a short-leg.
Take a moment here. In T20 cricket, captains push the field back at the first opportunity. Zaheer Khan placed a slip and a short-leg. He employed two leggies from both ends.
A barrage of wrong’uns followed and Mumbai suddenly were shaky. Zaheer kept the field in with the two leggies plugging away. Mumbai went into a shell and Sachin Tendulkar got busy with ‘how-to-play-a-leggie’ lessons in the dugout. Rahul Dravid looked fidgety. Ricky Ponting chewed his gum.
The scoring rate shot up but Rohit kept pushing the singles. With 32 runs needed off 12 balls, Mumbai still looked favourites. Rohit and Pollard in the middle. Hardik Pandya and Harbhajan Singh to come.
Enter Zaheer Khan, the bowler.
Zaheer missed the mark with the first two deliveries. A couple. A wide. The frustration showed in the Delhi dugout. Then, a yorker on leg stump. Pollard dug it out for a single. A yorker on leg again, Rohit missed it. A yorker on middle, Rohit drove it down for a single. Zaheer Khan was putting up a show with the ball and Rahul Dravid – sitting on the edge of his chair – had a hint of smile on his face — I have seen Zak do this before.
Zaheer missed the mark again with the fifth delivery. Full toss and it flew into the stands. Yesss – Tendulkar shook his head in approval. Nooo – Dravid rubbed his palms over his face. Ricky Ponting chewed his gum.
Zaheer Khan had one delivery left. Pollard was coiling up to explode. Zaheer ran in. His palms covering the ball — we have all seen Zak do that before.
He did it, again.
The fingers caressed the ball sideways. Out came the cutter and the miscue from Pollard. The ball sailed high and found the palms of the solitary fielder placed at sweeper cover.
Khan is the man – flashed the big screen. Zaheer Khan – redefining swag – stood with his wings spread. Rahul Dravid, shockingly, went into a celebration frenzy. Tendulkar shook his head in anguish. Ricky Ponting, though, chewed his gum.
The Daredevils were not supposed win it. They did because of Zaheer Khan, the fielder, Zaheer Khan, the bowler and Zaheer Khan, the captain.
This IPL has been a drab show. Yes, Krunal Pandya has happened. 150 plus sixes have been hit. The purple cap has changed hands but it has failed to produce the magical moments — moments that make cricket so intoxicating.
Finally, the magic arrived. Zaheer Khan, the captain arrived.