Of those 16.3 overs, the 29-year-old Madhwal — a right-arm pacer from Roorkee — delivered 21 balls that not just put brakes on Lucknow Super Giants but dismantled them for 101 all out while chasing MI’s 182/8.
In those 21 balls, Madhwal delivered five knockout punches. It included the wicket of Nicholas Pooran for a golden duck with a dream delivery that pitched and left the southpaw enough to induce a drive and find the edge. Madhwal almost refused to give away any runs in the spell, finishing with figures of 5/5 — something almost unimaginable in any format of the game.
IPL: Mumbai thrash Lucknow in Eliminator, to face Gujarat in Qualifier 2
But it’s not the first time that MI were reaping benefits of putting their trust in Madhwal.
Earlier in the tournament, while in a must-win situation against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Madhwal’s ability to hurl impeccable yorkers in the death overs helped MI restrict SRH to an under-par score. Madhwal’s figures in that game read 4/37, which included the perfect yorkers he bowled to claim the wickets of Glenn Phillips and Heinrich Klaasen.
IPL 2023: Akash Madhwal takes 5/5 as Mumbai Indians knock out Lucknow Super Giants
In a matter of four years, Madhwal’s life has witnessed a sea change. The engineer by qualification turned into a top tennis-ball exponent at the age of 23 to an Uttrakhand pacer and now an IPL hero, as the stage kept getting bigger for Madhwal, who bowls with a lion’s heart.
His life started changing for the better when he turned up for the trials organized by the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand, when the state got a BCCI affiliation. Madhwal was 24 then, and this was his entry point for competitive cricket.
Former India opener Wasim Jaffer was the coach then and he picked Madhwal in the state side. But it was only after former Services pacer Manish Jha took over as Uttrakhand coach that Madhwal started to blossom as a pace bowler.
“He had raw talent with a fickle mind. He would try to bowl too many variations because he watched bowlers do that on TV. The first thing we had to do was to get him to focus,” Jha said during a conversation with TOI previously. “I told him to just bowl fast and not think about leaking runs. We gave him the assurance that he would play all the matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy matches.”
Perhaps it was the transition from the tennis ball to leather ball that Madhwal was taking time to get accustomed to.
“He is an engineer by qualification. He picked up the nuances really fast. He doesn’t have his father and his family wasn’t financially stable. Akash always listened to what was told to him and was driven to succeed.”
However, Jha says that Madhwal’s red-ball skills are still a work in progress.
“With the red ball, he hasn’t nailed it yet because he needs to figure the right length with his deliveries that skid off the pitch,” Jha added.
‘ENGINEERS CAN LEARN QUICKLY’
Mumbai Indians will next meet title-holders Gujarat Titans in Qualifier 2, which will decide who faces MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in the final on May 28. CSK had beaten Gujarat by 15 runs in Qualifier 1 to book a spot in the title match.
Madhwal will, of course, be part of GT’s study material before the big game on Friday.
After MI’s win on Wednesday, Madhwal shared his feelings.
“I was just practising, and waiting for this opportunity. I did my engineering, and played tennis-ball cricket since it was my passion. Engineers have a tendency to learn quickly,” he said with a smile. “I just practice, and that is what we execute. I’m proud of myself, but I’ll try to be better.”
When asked about filling the big shoes of Bumrah, Madhwal said: “Bumrah bhai has his own place, and I’m just trying to play my role. Nicholas Pooran was the best wicket. Everyone at home believes I’m working hard.”