Welcome to the series where we present you a moment, a game in history that has shaped the way the sport has been played, in our weekly segment ‘Throwback Thursday.' This week, we relive Aditya Tare’s six off Faulkner in IPL 2014, which enabled MI to pull off the greatest heist in IPL history.
It’s May 25, 2014 and we’re at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai for the final group game of IPL 07 between Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals. Mumbai are 189/5 in 14.3 overs chasing 190, the graphic on the screen says “Mumbai can still qualify if they score a boundary in the next ball” but absolutely no one - not the players, not the coaches, not the fans - has an idea of what is actually going on. All they know? Mumbai will qualify for the play-offs with a boundary next ball. How and why? No one knows. Handed the responsibility of hitting that boundary is local boy Aditya Tare, who is yet to face a ball in the match, and bowling to him is James Faulkner, who has already conceded 48 runs in the game.
But before we get to the climax, it is imperative to understand how we, in the first place, ended up in such a bizarre scenario.
The 2014 edition of the IPL was filled with drama even before the tournament began and after months of speculation, it was decided a month before the tournament that the first leg of the competition was going to be held in the UAE, owing to the dates and timings of the elections back home. But even prior to this scheduling fiasco, there was a considerable buzz surrounding the tournament due to the mental nature of the auction that took place in February, in which Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Karthik were bought for a combined sum of Rs 26.50 crore.
Expectations were high heading into the tournament, however, no one was quite prepared for what was about to unfold in the actual season. Yes, the pitches in the UAE turned out to be absolute belters, even better than the ones back home, Glenn Maxwell, with scores of 95, 89 and 95 in his first three knocks, lit up the whole competition, but despite all this, it was Mumbai Indians who made all the headlines. The spotlight being on defending champions is not something new, but Mumbai were the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.
Heading into IPL 2014 as the defending champions, Mumbai, led by Rohit Sharma, dumbfoundingly, much to the horror of their fans, lost each of their FIRST FIVE GAMES to sit eighth on the table after 20 matches. Two of their first five defeats came at the hands of Delhi and Kolkata, who had finished 9th and 7th respectively in IPL 2013, and so appalling and flabbergasting was Mumbai’s showing that less than half-way into the tournament, their campaign was written off by fans - including their own kind - and experts as a lost cause. This was, put simply, the worst ever showing by a defending champion in the tournament’s history.
So with 5 losses in 5 games, heading into the India leg, the equation for MI was simple - they needed to win at least 7 of their next 9 matches to stay alive in the competition. Thus, understandably, thanks to the enormity and complexity of the task in hand, more people were confident of Mumbai pulling off a reverse-Deccan Chargers (DC won in 2009 after finishing 8th in 2008) than they were of the defending champs finishing in the top four.
With any other team, the conclusion would have been forgone. Ordinary sides would have thrown in the towel. But not Mumbai. This Mumbai side was no ordinary team; they were not going to go away just like that, they were hell-bent on fighting till their last breath.
Taking to Indian soil with nothing and everything to lose at the same time, they first ‘upset’ table-toppers Punjab at Wankhede to finally get off the mark for the season, 17 days and 21 games into the competition. And so their renaissance began. One win turned into two, two into three, three into four and after encountering roadblocks on the way in the form of defeats against CSK and KKR, Mumbai headed into the last group game of the season against Rajasthan Royals with 6 wins and 12 points to their name, still alive in the competition - barely.
Yet despite proving the doubters wrong and overcoming the odds for a whole damn month, the prospect of qualification never looked farther for Mumbai than during the halfway stage of their encounter against RR. With Rajasthan, who had 7 wins and 14 points to their name prior to the encounter, having posted 189/4 in their 20 overs, batting first, the equation for Mumbai, due to NRR complications, to qualify for the play-offs, read as follows: 190 runs needed off 87 balls. Indeed, they needed to score a minimum of 2.18 runs every ball and that too against a side that boasted of three bowlers with an economy rate under 8.00.
There was a ‘so close, yet so far’ feeling amongst fans - both inside the stadium and at home - even before the chase began and like they’d do in a meaningless third-place match between two neutrals in a World Cup, ahead of the chase, they were just hoping for one thing: to be entertained. But little did they know Mumbai were not there just to ‘entertain’.
A 12-run first-over signalled intent but it was on the 13th ball of the innings, when Mumbai’s 4.50 crore recruit Corey Anderson walked in post Lendl Simmons’ dismissal, that the chase caught fire. Having smacked the fastest century in ODI cricket only three months prior to IPL 2014, Anderson was in ‘rampage mode’ from ball one and, despite seeing wickets tumble at the other end, was on a one-man-mission to achieve the impossible.
He brought up his 50 off just 24 balls, scored 44 more runs in his next 19 balls, and all of a sudden, Anderson’s obliteration coupled with Rayudu’s 23* off 8 brought the equation down to 9 needed of 3 balls. Yes, MI were 181/4 off 14 overs and had to score just 9 runs off the next 3 James Faulkner balls to script the greatest chase in T20, possibly even cricket, history.
A single off the first ball and a six off the second brought the equation down to 2 off 1. 190 off 87 was what they needed heading into the chase, and in the first 86, they’d already scored 188 of those runs. 2 was all that remained. Now there was belief; there was unbridled joy. Now the impossible looked like a mere formality. But what is sport without a twist?
A botched slog from the bat of Rayudu, who had batted perfectly for 9 balls, didn’t cross the inner circle, meaning he was run out by Rajasthan en route completing his second run. Sanju Samson took the bails off, inflicted the run out, and, given the dreaded 87th ball had been bowled, everyone inside the stadium unanimously assumed that the match was over; that MI were goners and RR were progressing to the play-offs.
Except it wasn’t to be.
Both teams were informed that owing to the NRR complications, Mumbai still had one more opportunity to qualify - by dispatching the next ball to the boundary. In walked local lad Aditya Tare, who had scored 120 runs at 17.14 in IPL 2014 prior to walking out, looking at the chaos on display as a ladder; not a pit.
So, that brings us to the moment.
The equation is simple - one ball left, one boundary needed. It could be a four; it could be a six. It doesn’t matter. But what does matter is the outcome for Mumbai, who wouldn’t want their name to go down as the defending champs who got knocked out in the group stages. The outcome also matters for RR, who were certain of qualification at the halfway stage and are on the verge of being on the wrong side of the biggest bottlejob in T20 cricket history. Two sixes is all Tare has hit all tournament, but one more would be enough for him to be remembered as a Mumbai Indians cult hero for the rest of his life. This is life-or-death, and this is sport at its very best. This is it.
Welcome to a moment in history.