In what was the maiden thriller of the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Ambani-owned Mumbai Indians scripted a splendid comeback to steal a four-wicket win against the SRK co-owned Kolkata Knight Riders at Mumbai’s iconic Wankhede stadium.
After the Rising Pune Supergiant got the better of MI in their opening game, the hosts bounced back to record their first points this season. While the Pandya brothers - Hardik (11-ball 29) and Krunal (3-24) – were instrumental in the thrilling win, it eventually took a Delhi boy to seal the deal for Mumbai.
Nitish Rana, the Delhi boy, slammed a superb 29-ball 50 at a strike-rate of over 170. The 23-year-old was sent ahead of Rohit Sharma and thrashed the KKR bowlers for five fours and three sixes.
Here are 5 things to know about MI paltan’s newfound hero
#1 Highest run-getter for Delhi in 2015-16 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy
An aggressive southpaw who bowls part-time off-spin, the 23-year-old was one of the positives for Delhi in an otherwise poor 2015-16 domestic season that was troubled by too many off-field controversies. Rana struck 299 runs and 21 sixes in Delhi's journey to the semi-final of the 2015-16 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (most by any batsman in the history of the tournament -most by any batsman in the history of the tournament). Out of his total tally of 21 sixes, eight were seen in his innings of 97 from 40 balls against Andhra.
Gautam Gambhir, who was the then Delhi captain (Rishabh Pant now captains Delhi) was highly impressed with the talented Rana and kept backing the youngster in all other domestic leagues.
#2 Signed for Rs 10 lakh by MI in the 2015 auctions
Mumbai Indians signed the Delhi boy at the 2015 IPL auction for Rs. 10 lakh, but it took Rana until the final third of the 9th edition to find a place in the playing XI. He played in Mumbai's last four matches of 2016, and the outfit showed faith in him, sending him to bat at No. 4 twice.
In MI’s last game of the season, they sent him to bat at No. 3. Rana scored 70 off 36 balls batting at No. 3 against Gujarat Lions, and that innings ensured that he would be a regular in the Mumbai camp in 2017. Come the tenth edition, the batsman has already established his name in only two games of the season.
#3 Dropped from 2016-17 Vijay Hazare Trophy, just a month before IPL 10
In the 2016-17 Vijay Hazare Trophy, Rana did not have a good season in the 50-over tournament, i.e. just before the start of the current IPL. He scored only ten runs in three innings and was consequently dropped. His Delhi skipper, Gautam Gambhir, was against dropping Rana and went on to criticise the coach, KP Bhaskar, of making the dressing room atmosphere uncertain by discarding young talents on the basis of a few bad performances.
Little would have Gambhir knew that Rana would clinch a win away from his own team, KKR, in the IPL. Rana scored 50 off 29 against KKR and kept Mumbai alive in the game when they were almost down and out.
#4 Scored 557 runs in his first Ranji season
The 23-year-old, now known as an attacking left-handed batsman, was recognised more for his fielding efforts than batting when he made his First Class debut. Rana was first picked by Delhi in 2012-13 as a limited-overs player and could only make his first-class Ranji Trophy debut in 2015-16.
The Mumbai Indians’ star made an impact in his first few minutes as a player of the prestigious Ranji trophy, not as a batsman, but as a terrific fielder.
When Delhi played against Vidarbha, the now Mumbai Indians batsman, fielding at square leg ran out Wasim Jaffer off the very first ball of the match. He later scored 61 in the first innings of the same game, and finished the season as Delhi's highest run-getter, with 557 runs at 50.63, including three fifties and a century.
#5 Credits his emergence to Gautam Gambhir
“We have been gelling well as a team and the atmosphere has been good. It was my first season of first-class cricket. I am lucky that Gautam (Gambhir) bhaiyya is the captain. I haven’t seen a better captain than him. It is thanks to his and coach’s backing that we are here today.” Rana was quoted as saying after this year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy ended.
Gambhir saw what Rana could bring to the table. Interestingly, the KKR skipper was watching from the other side of the ground when Rana sealed the deal for Mumbai Indians on Sunday. Gambhir might have felt the sting of the loss, but would also pleased that the batsman made the headlines for the right reasons.