“When (Ambati) Rayudu was run out (with the scores tied in 14.3 overs), we did not know exactly (who qualified). We did not know the match could be tied in 14.3. We wanted to win in 14 or 14.2 or thought we would lose, but never thought it could tie on 14.3,” Sharma said after the brilliant chase last night.
“The big screen flashed it but I was not watching it. But our analysts were working constantly and we knew we had to hit a boundary on the next ball to get our run rate ahead of Rajasthan Royals,” added an elated Sharma after his team’s five-wicket victory and a passage into the play-off.
Aditya Tare, who replaced Rayudu, calmly dispatched a full toss from Royals’ left-arm pace bowler James Faulkner into the stands beyond the square leg area to complete the daunting task and then ran towards the far end of the Wankhede Stadium in glee with his teammates chasing him.
With the two teams ending with the same number of points (14) after the league stage of the tournament, title holders MI went through due to a marginally better net run rate than their rivals.
In fact, there was some confusion when the scores got tied with the run out off the third ball of the 14th over while going for a difficult second run with the Royals even celebrating before it dawned on them that the next ball was the clincher.
Sharma said the team knew how difficult it was to chase such a big score at 13 runs an over but drew confidence from the fact that it had done so in last year’s Champions League too to qualify for the knockouts.
“With the 190 target, we thought we should enjoy and not take pressure. Doing it in 14.3 overs is not a common occurrence. It was not easy as a run rate of 13 was needed from the first over. But we also knew we could do it as we have the batting and we had included an extra batsman (Corey Anderson), so that we could chase whatever was the target in front of us.
“In Champions League also, we were in the same situation. We had then chased 155 in 14.3. We had the belief we could do it and were positive we could chase. The wicket was also good to bat on,” said Sharma.
The Mumbai Ranji Trophy skipper said it was an unbelievable feeling to make it but also said the team deserved it as it had showed excellent consistency after losing the first five games in the UAE where the first phase of the tournament was held because of general elections in the country.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, honestly. People wrote us off after those first 5 games. To come here at the end of day and see Mumbai Indians at no. 4 is simply amazing. We really played some good cricket and deserved to be in top 4. Since we came back to India we have played 9 games and lost only 2 and won 7. It shows we are a consistent team.
Sharma was all praise for the left-handed Kiwi Corey Anderson for his whirlwind unbeaten 95 off only 44 balls (with 6 sixes and 9 fours in it) and his match-winning partnership of 81 runs for the fifth wicket with Rayudu who made an invaluable 10-ball 30 with a six and five fours.
“He proved that he’s capable of doing such heroics on the field. He always had that ability to play such knocks. I don’t know what was happening earlier on. But today he performed the way we expected him to. It was a good choice to get him to bat at no. 3 and give him the license to just go and play his shots and he did just that.
“I had played with him in New Zealand recently (earlier this year) and saw what kind of talent he had. I always believed he could produce a performance like that any time and it was due today was the perfect day I hope he continues that form which would be really good for us.”
Asked about the next game, the knock out play-off eliminator against former champions Chennai Super Kings at the Cricket Club of India’s Brabourne Stadium on May 28, Sharma said he was yet to put his thoughts on that.
“My mind is not working right now. I am not thinking about it right now. Probably tomorrow onwards it will be on. I need to relax in the dressing room and see how we have performed in the last 14 games
“Chennai is a good team we know their strengths and weaknesses. It will be a challenge to play against them. Their form is a little inconsistent. We probably would try and use that to our advantage, but no underestimating them.”