Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene defended the team’s decision to drop spinner Harbhajan Singh from their IPL opener against Rising Pune Supergiant, saying it was a tactical move.”Bhajji wasn’t dropped. It was just a combination. Tactically we decided first game, given the opposition, that’s the way we wanted to go. Simple as that,” said the former Sri Lanka skipper here today. The decision to include inexperienced left arm spinner Krunal Pandya seemed to have backfired as he was given just two overs in which he went for runs in the April 6 opener against RPS that MI lost by seven wickets.
“Not really. When you look at their line-up, they had 8 right-handers in the top 10 except for Stokes. We still had Nitesh (Rana) in our line-up who could bowl,” he further explained about the inclusion of Pandya.
“We have a quality group of players and we need to be smart about how we use them against opposition. I thought we played a very good game given the fact that what they had to offer. But definitely (Harbhajan was) not dropped in the way that you want me to say it. Just that it was a tactical decision.
“Given that it was a green wicket and that they had 2 leg-spinners, one of whom went for runs and just one took wickets off pretty straight balls.
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“I think we were in the game, tactically we got it right. We thought 184 was quite a high score on that venue. They batted really well to get that,” he elaborated.
“We made couple of mistakes on the field. The second one that we dropped (RPS captain) Steve Smith when he was on 36. So that’s probably where things didn’t go our way. But I think tactically we played the game pretty much the way we wanted. Just couldn’t get over the line,” he said.
The team has been bolstered by the arrival of his countrymen, MI’s long-time pace spearhead Lasith Malinga and all rounder Asela Gunaratne after the T20 series at home against Bangladesh, but Mumbai will be without the services of another key batsman Ambati Rayudu who has a groin injury that he suffered while fielding against RPS.
“Malinga and Asit have arrived, they will train today. Rayudu has had a scan. He’s got a grade 1 small tear (in the groin). We’ll assess him after about 7-8 days. Then he’ll start some casual rehab training.
“We just want to monitor him on a weekly basis and see how best we could get him back in playing condition. For now, he’s going to be out for 10 days for sure,” said Jayawardene.
“Except for Rayudu, everyone else is healthy,” he said.
When pointed out MI’s penchant for starting the IPL poorly, Jayawardene said he certainly wanted the team to begin well in his first stint.
“Yes, it has been highlighted that we’ve had situations where we have not had good starts. It’s something that I definitely wanted to change and that was my mindset going into the first game as well, with a very positive and attacking mindset. But this is what T20 cricket is about.
“We took the game to the last two balls and that’s where we lost it. So there were a lot of positives out of it. To have Malinga gives us more options in our attack.”
He described tomorrow’s opponents Kolkata Knight Riders as a formidable side, noting that KKR had comprehensively beaten Gujarat Lions in their opening game at Rajkot.
“They’re a very good opposition. A very formidable unit and an experienced side. They know how to win matches, how to win championships.
“They showed yesterday how clinical they were against Gujarat (Lions). We have to be very mindful of that. But we have to play to our strengths and we’ve got a very good team. Just go out and execute our game plans and have a good game.”