Sunday, April 21 2013.
Mumbai Indians took on Delhi Daredevils at the Feroz Shah Kotla in the sixth season of the Indian Premier League in their fifth match of the campaign. Batting first, they made 161/4 thanks to half-centuries from Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma. But look closely at the scoreboard and the biggest takeaway was that six batsmen batted for MI and none of them were named Ricky Ponting, their captain. Mumbai went on to lose the match by nine wickets and that would be the last time the Australian legend captained the MI side. For the next match, Ponting dropped himself out of the team due to poor form and the mantle was set to be passed on.
Wednesday, April 24 2013.
It was Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday. A special day across the country, usually. The venue was Eden Gardens, one that would go on to become Rohit Sharma’s favourite. And it is on that day that he walked out for the toss for the first time as Mumbai Indians captain. The result? A win against Gautam Gambhir’s defending champions in what was a significant moment in Indian cricket history.
Start of an era
Mumbai Indians would lose only three more matches in the rest of the season, before returning to Eden Gardens for the final to beat CSK for their first title. It was Rohit Sharma’s first triumph as captain, second as player and fast forward to 2020: he has won six titles in all six finals, five of those as skipper.
“It was tough when we changed our captain,” Rohit was quoted as telling iplt20.com after the final. “It was not easy to come in suddenly to do the job. But I have really enjoyed this role since the moment Ricky stepped down and I was handed the captaincy. I knew the responsibility would fall on my shoulders since I was vice-captain for two years.
“It is simply amazing to win the IPL title with Mumbai, my hometown. The way we performed shows the character of the team. It was not an easy victory and I am really happy. I have no words to describe this feeling.”
Ponting played a role from the bench for the rest of the season while in John Wright and Anil Kumble, they had a solid back-room team too. It all helped Rohit get going without a glitch.
“I want to make sure the 10 guys who are playing and the other players on the bench, I should be talking to them and make them feel important. That is something that I learned from Ricky Ponting,” Rohit had told India Today TV earlier, in September. “Those players will come out good or will be at their best when they are not under pressure.”
Ponting, currently coach of IPL 2020 runners-up Delhi Capitals, stepped down as captain of Mumbai Indians midway into the sixth IPL edition and Rohit eased into the role to help the team clinch its first title.
And that spirit of backing the squad was seen in Rohit’s address to his team after title No 5.
“I have never captained for a continuous stretch at any level and this was a welcome change, for Mumbai Indians are a high-profile IPL franchise. John Wright and the seniors were helpful, but they let me do my own thing during the games. As captain, you cannot let your shoulders droop and there is this onus on doing well yourself, making a personal contribution. I became aware of the situations around me, but I became even more self-aware,” Rohit was quoted as saying by The Mint in October 2013 when MI went on to complete the IPL-Champions League double.
It was quite a sensational run from MI to bounce back in the group stages that year, and it started with a five-wicket win against KKR at the Eden Gardens on that April night. Seven and a half years later, Rohit is a five-time championship-winning captain with Mumbai Indians.
Watch highlights of Rohit’s first match as captain and his first press conference below: