Ponting tells the Mumbai India story

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Head coach gives insight into what went into the team’s remarkable turnaround

Mumbai Indians have scripted the most amazing turnaround of Pepsi IPL 2015. After losing their first four games in the tournament, they have bounced back with five consecutive wins. The last of the five was probably the most gratifying, for it came against CSK in their own fortress.
After MI defeated CSK by six wickets in Chennai, iplt20.com spoke to their head coach, Ricky Ponting, about his team’s remarkable comeback. Ponting gave some marvellous insights into the MI story.

What magic wand have you wielded on the team for them to turn things around like this after the four losses upfront?

It has been a great turnaround but it has nothing to do with me; full credit to the players. We have worked really hard – we worked hard before the first game as well, but things didn’t quite go to plan. We knew that if we can string a couple of wins together, we will be able to come back strong. Full credit to the players to show that kind of character when our backs were to the wall.

What was said in the team and what areas of improvement were identified after the bad start to the tournament?

It wasn’t anything about training harder or doing anything differently. It was just about adapting to the situations and playing according to them. In the first four games we actually played some reasonable cricket, but in some very important moments we didn’t just lose by a bit but by big margins. To be a consistent T20 team the gap between your best cricket and worst cricket has to be really small. I think we have started to play more like a team now and the gap between our best and worst cricket is much smaller.

One area where MI haven’t been consistent in the last few years is the opening pair. Do you see that sorted now?

Yes, that was one area where we tried different things around a bit in the first three games to find the right combination. Barring the last game against DD our starts with the bat have been particularly good and we need to build that platform for the likes of Rohit, Rayudu and Pollard to come and finish things off well. Lendl and Parthiv have done that. Parthiv’s form in particular, throughout this tournament has been very good. He hasn’t been getting big scores but he has got us to a good start in every game.

Is one important reason for the turnaround that the bowling has started to come good?

I think Mitchell McClenaghan coming in has given us more wicket-taking firepower. Our spinners – young Suchith has been really great and so has Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh). This is a big win for the team. But as big as it is, we still have three more games coming up and we need to win them to give ourselves a chance to qualify for the playoffs. We cannot afford to get carried away but I am really proud of the way the guys have fared in the last five games.

MI lost three quick wickets after a good start. Is that something the team needs to be mindful of going into the business end of the tournament?

Yes, but that tends to happen on this wicket. We knew this is a new-ball pitch and you need to get off to a good start. We also knew that if you lose two-three wickets in quick succession, the game can change very quickly. In fact, that is what I said to Lendl and Parthiv in the timeout. I told them, ‘you guys are off to a good start and I hope you continue. But if one of you gets out we cannot afford to have the other get out too’. And as it turned out, they both were dismissed in the same over and that really put the skids on us. But what I have loved the most about this team is that when things have gotten the toughest, someone has stood up. That is one of the main qualities I wanted to bring into this team – that Mumbai Indians are never beaten until the last ball is bowled. That fighting spirit and attitude showed tonight.

Heartening to see fringe players putting their hands up for the team?

I told the guys today in the team meeting, ‘I am not surprised with what we have done so far because so far we haven’t played our best cricket’. It is a scary thought for me that if we turn up one day and put together 40 overs of our best cricket, it is going to take a lot to beat us. For someone like Simmons to come in and play the way he has is great. J Suchith has been a great find for us and today to see Hardik Pandya play like that was amazing to watch. When we went into the auction, one thing we had to ensure is that we started picking up some talented young guys, because we have lost a few in the last few years.

Lastly, a word on Hardik Pandya. You must have seen him closely in the last few days. Was there anything about him that stood out for you?

I have actually got quite close to him since I started in this job. That kid is fearless and has lots of very good skills. We haven’t seen his bowling much yet but it is particularly good. We saw some of his hitting prowess tonight and even in the game against RCB where he took 16-odd in the last over. He is going to be a very good cricketer going forward and is someone I am excited to continue to work with. Just to see the young guys here and their passion and just how fearless they are to take on any situation they are faced with, is amazing. It is a great attitude to have.

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