The Mumbai Indians know what it feels like to be IPL champions. Having clinched the coveted title in 2013 and after failing to defend the title the following year, Mumbai Indians are keen to make a telling statement as they gear up for a fresh start in 2015. The team went full throttle in their practice session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on the eve of their first game against the defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders. Ricky Ponting, who is now donning the role of the coach, was seen keeping a close eye on the preparations of his players ahead of the marquee clash on Wednesday.
Mumbai Indians (MI) Squad IPL 8 - 2015
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) Squad IPL 8 - 2015
Talking about their opening match, Rohit believed it would be very important to start well. "It will be important to start the game really well. We have to start well whether we bat or bowl first. It is a very important game. The first game of the season is crucial. It is important that you start well, take that momentum into the next game and perform to your best. A winning momentum gives you lot of confidence and helps you build on your strengths.
"It is a long tournament. You have to break it in parts and then decide what is best for the team and how you want to go about your strategies. You always have a chance to comeback, but as a team you don't want to be in that situation where you have to think of coming back again and again which is not easy."
KKR, playing at home, do appear to have a slight upper-hand considering the fact that they know the conditions well. Traditionally, they have banked on their spin department to thrive on the pitch conditions at the Eden Gardens and on Wednesday it could be no different. Rohit and company were ready for the challenge at hand. "Playing at Eden Gardens is always a challenge. But I guess every team will do what is best for their team and try to make use of the home advantage which is what KKR are doing. I see no reason why a team shouldn't use home advantage. KKR is doing the same. They play according to their strengths and prepare wickets according to their strengths which is fair.
"When you are away from home, it is important to understand that all odds will be against you. Every time we have walked out at Eden Gardens, we have always felt confident. We have done well and played some good cricket here."
Rohit himself has fond memories of Eden Gardens. After all it was at this venue that he scored his mountainous record breaking ODI knock of 264 against Sri Lanka and he looked to bank on it while walking out to bat tomorrow. "You don't break records every day. I feel that innings I played here will definitely be in my mind. Going into the game (tomorrow) that confidence will be there. I know the conditions well and have an idea as to what to expect from the wicket. It has been a long time since that knock and I would like to stay in the present which is very important for me and my team."
Sharma was also aware of KKR's batting depth and reckoned his bowling unit had to put forward their 'A' game when it came to restricting KKR's batting prowess. "We need to focus on our bowling strengths. They have good depth in batting and have a long batting line-up. We will make our strategies and try to execute them on the ground. We know what their batsmen can do and we will try to make it tough for them."
KKR are also boosted by the arrival of Sunil Narine who is back in the side after remodeling his action. Narine quite naturally has been a huge threat for most opposition in the IPL over the years, but Sharma refused to solely focus on the 'Narine-factor'. "There will be 16 more overs to be bowled at us which are also going to be crucial. We have to look at their overall bowling unit which looks very good. We will focus on the bowling unit rather than one person," he said.