With a hat-trick of wins, Mumbai Indians are making waves in IPL 6. The franchise that created a buzz before the season began by hiring John Wright as coach and Anil Kumble as team mentor, spent $450,000 on Ricky Ponting and then made him captain, doled out a whopping $1 million on Australian allrounder Glenn Maxwell and bought Western Australia fast-bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile for a surprisingly high price, is now living up to its heavyweight billing. And a significant part of their three consecutive wins has been the fielding.
Arguably, it is the best in the league. Ponting, Kieron Pollard and Rishi Dhawan have taken some excellent catches under the watchful supervision of the team's fielding coach Jonty Rhodes, and such good work could prove decisive for Mumbai. Apart from some awesome catches, the ground fielding has been sharp too - all tremendous assets in Twenty20 cricket and so often the difference between winning and losing. Rhodes' influence is evident, and the arrival of another world class fielder in Ponting seems to be rubbing off.
Mumbai's successful defense of a total of 148 against Chennai Super Kings began poorly as Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma spilled catches off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson's first two overs, but the way the fielders held chances at the end proved massive. In the 11th over, Dinesh Karthik held a brilliant low catch behind the stumps to get rid of Dwayne Bravo off left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. Then, off the first ball of the final over with CSK needing 12 runs to win, Pollard took a stunner just inside the boundary to cut off MS Dhoni for 51 off 26 balls. Dhoni struck the ball down the ground and it looked like heading for six until Pollard leapt across with his tall frame and plucked it. That superb bit of athleticism proved match-winning.
In defense of 210 against Delhi Daredevils, Ponting took an outstanding catch that showed his excellence in the field even at the age of 40. Delhi were rocked first ball by a terrific catch from the former Australia captain at short cover, leaping horizontally to his right as Unmukt Chand got a leading edge off Harbhajan Singh. That catch will make the highlights reel at the end of IPL 6.
Later in the same match, Rayudu ran in and held a good catch at deep midwicket as David Warner swung hard at Johnson. Delhi were 95 for 3 in the 11th over and lost their most destructive batsman. The timing of Rayudu's slide was notable, as was the manner in which he cupped the ball as he almost lost balance.
The win over Pune Warriors at the Wankhede Stadium saw some more outstanding catches from Mumbai's fielders. The first came from rookie Himachal Pradesh allrounder Dhawan at deep midwicket, who ran in from the boundary and managed to hold himself to catch a smashing flat pull shot from Yuvraj Singh that rocketed into his palms even as he was on the move. Dhawan's second catch was simply brilliant; running around to his right from deep cover, the youngster lost the ball as it came down but held it with an outstretched hand to end top-scorer Mitchell Marsh's innings.
Immediately, Rhodes was on his feet in appreciation of that sterling effort from Dhawan. Extracting such fielding from a rookie cricketer on a stage as big as the IPL is huge for Mumbai. If they go on to string together many more wins and emerge a winning unit, then the good work from Rhodes and the fielders will not go unnoticed. The other teams had better be wary.
Have your say: Which catch in IPL 6 have you found to be the best?