When MS Dhoni took to the field after losing the toss, he resembled the same man as one marshaling his Chennai Super Kings teammates in previous years. The same confidence oozed, when he came out leading the Rising Pune Supergiants, who were playing their first match against defending champions Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede stadium. Everyone expected a close contest but in a strange quirk of anti-complex, Mumbai Indians went down without a fight and handed over victory to Dhoni, for whom winning matches has become second nature. With unstinted authority even in a new combo, Dhoni guided his seam bowlers in pressuring Mumbai Indian batsmen, who looked out of sorts from the very start in the inaugural match of the 9th season of Indian Premier League. It was a huge disappointment for the Mumbai fans, who watched their heroes making a beeline for the pavilion on Saturday night, rather than piling up any challenging score. If Mumbai could reach the three-figure mark of 121/8 in 20 overs, it was only because of the vintage Harbhajan Singh, who hammered a face-saving 45 off 30 balls towards the close. The target of 122 for Rising Pune Supergiants presented hardly any challenge as the top three batsmen finished everything to win by 9 wickets with more than 5 overs still remaining. The new formation from Pune couldn’t have asked for a sweeter start to their 2016 IPL campaign and their skipper made a signature statement as someone, who just wouldn’t lose whatever be the circumstances.
When Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to bat, he would have probably thought of mounting a big total that Pune should find difficult to chase. But Rohit and his batsmen were foxed by Pune seamers from the second over onwards. Rohit fell LBW to Ishant Sharma, who was able to make the ball climb at speed. Sharma also accounted for the other opener Lendl Simmons and with Mitchell Marsh also producing dangerous late-cutters, Mumbai Indians were 30 for 4 by over no.5. That soon became 40 for 5 with Rajat Bhatia sending back Kieron Pollard in the eighth over. Mumbai failed to recover from the initial onslaught and at 68/7 in the 16th over, a sub-100 total was clearly on cards. But the seasoned Harbhajan Singh ensured that Mumbai cross 100 and reach 121/8 in 20 overs.
With a formidable top order batting line up comprising of Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis, Kevin Pietersen and Steven Smith, there was no way Pune Rising Supergiants would falter against a lowly target of 122. Rahane began by belting Mitchell McClenaghan for two fours in the first and third overs and the bowler got further stick, when both Rahane and du Plessis scored sixes off him in the innings’ fifth over, what if both sixes came from mis-hits. With the pitch losing the bite, scoring became easier and Rahane and du Plessis kept rollicking ahead. They added 78 before du Plessis departed in trying to sweep Harbhajan Singh but he missed the ball to be clean bowled. Just 44 more runs were needed at this stage from 62 balls. With Rahane firmly in the groove and Kevin Pietersen joining him, Pune moved defiantly towards the target. KP played just 14 balls for his 21 runs peppered with two monstrous sixes off Harbhajan singh and when Pune needed 8 for victory in the 15th over, Rahane brought the proceeding to an end with two towering sixes off Hardik Pandya.
While PRS had a great start, Mumbai Indians were sadly disappointed to lose in front of a big home crowd. However, the result of the first match should not dishearten them as 13 more games remain. Nearly the same thing happened last year, when Mumbai slipped in the reckonings early on, but bounced back in later stages to clinch the championship. As for Pune, they look good in all departments and they can derive a lot of comfort from winning their opening game against the defending champions.