That Rohit Sharma loves playing at Eden Gardens is a well-known fact. His 264 against Sri Lanka – the highest score in a One-Day International, his maiden ton in his debut Test have all come at the historic venue. His numbers in IPL at the venue also paint a similar picture – he has scored 418 runs in 11 T20 innings at an average of 52.25 and at a strike rate of 146.67.
Mumbai Indians find themselves in a position where they need to win all remaining games to have a shot at making it to the playoffs. They find themselves against Kolkata Knight Riders – a team which hasn’t had a lot of success against them. And with pressure mounting, the team also finds itself looking towards the captain to set it up.
Rohit has had a quiet IPL 2018 so far. He has made 231 runs from 10 games and has played just one innings of substance – unbeaten 94 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Mumbai. While MI will be hoping he continues his good run at the Eden Gardens, JP Duminy felt the captain should not be judged on how he has fared in the tournament but on how he has performed in pressure situations.
“Rohit’s performance hasn’t been as high as he has set the standard but for me it’s about performances when the team has needed it,” the allrounder said on the eve of the clash against KKR. “For me, that’s been the crucial part of each contribution. He stood up when the team needed it.
“I remember against RCB at Wankhede, when we lost two wickets, he stood up and scored a 94 not out and it’s probably the best I’ve seen him bat. Those are crucial moments from a team’s point of view. When adversities hit the team, that’s when leadership mentality comes through. That’s when the team follows you when they see that our captain is standing up so I’ve got to follow him.
“I don’t think any of us in the team will judge him by the overall performance. My thing is about how you perform in pressure moments and he has been outstanding.”
Another player MI will turn to will be Hardik Pandya. The allrounder played a key role in squeezing KKR in the last game and helping the team register a crucial win. Duminy acknowledged the way Pandya has handled pressure has been exceptional. “I’ve played against him. He’s an exceptional talent and one of the characters that backs himself in pressure situations,” he pointed out. “I think those are the players you need especially at this time in the tournament. You want these pressure players to step up and execute their skills to their best of abilities. I think the way he has executed has been exceptional and has been calm under pressure. He has had the same demeanour in success and failure.”
MI have had the wood over KKR and have won 17 of 21 contests between the two teams. At the Eden Gardens too they enjoy a better record with six wins in eight games so far. Duminy, however, refused to get drawn into past records and reiterated that the record doesn’t guarantee another win. “This is the first time in the tournament that we’ve experienced playing back to back. There’s no doubt that we’ll take a lot of confidence out of the last win but this is going to be a fresh start and we can’t be looking at the past success. We got to make sure we understand what challenge is in front of us,” he said.
“KKR will want to come back fighting because they are also in a position where they need to win a few games. We got to make sure we are smart and clinical on how we execute our skills. We’ve had discussions about our plans and those plans are fresh in our minds and we have to be clever about how we go about our plans.
“We’ve had success against KKR but at the end of the day it’s about the performance on the night. Yes, you can have good success but for me it doesn’t play any part going into tomorrow’s game. We have a little bit of momentum but you walk out to bat and lose two wickets in the first over – that past experience has nothing to do with that. You got to make sure that you are present in what’s in front of you and try and execute your skills as best as possible.”