Mumbai Indians (MI), by way of a massive 41-run victory over the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the IPL 2015 Final, lifted their second Indian Premier League (IPL) title, which has equalled their trophy tally with Chennai and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as the teams to have won two titles apiece.
It was an imperious display from the home side who never let CSK off the hook, and it was, from a neutral’s point-of-view, disappointing to witness such a one-sided final to bring the curtains down on what has by far been the most competitive IPL season.
MS Dhoni won the toss and strangely, chose to bowl first on what has been a good batting wicket at the Eden Gardens this season. The CSK skipper probably went by the record of the six completed games this season, at this venue, which has seen the teams chasing win four times. But it was a decision that, you could say, played it into MI’s hands, as the hosts have been happy to bat first and put up runs on the board.
Francois du Plessis inflicted a brilliant run-out of Parthiv Patel in the very first over, to kick start Chennai’s bowling innings on a resounding note. However, Rohit Sharma walked in at No. 3 and played a simply magical knock.
The Mumbai batsman, along with the ever consistent Lendl Simmons, played audaciously and the Chennai bowlers didn’t have an answer to the fluency exuded by this partnership.
This partnership, which put together a whopping 119 from a mere 67 balls, put their side in firm control of the proceedings very early on in the game, but by no means would have wanted to get out in subsequent overs (the 12th and 13th), and open the floodgates for the Super Kings.
Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard, though, made sure that there wasn’t a further procession of wickets, soon after the quick fall of the Simmons-Rohit duo. They took their time to settle down before going for the big strokes, as they sought to reach that magical 200-run mark.
Mumbai reached 202/5 at the end of their 20 overs, with four of their batsmen making substantial contributions to the team’s cause and tearing the visitors’ bowling attack apart. 203 was always going to be a massive total to chase, but a good start was imperative for CSK to set the cat amongst the pigeons.
Lasith Malinga and Mitchell McClenaghan, as they have done on so many occasions this season, bowled well with the new ball, restricting Dwayne Smith and Michael Hussey to just a handful of scoring shots in the mandatory powerplay.
It meant that Dhoni’s side needed more than 12 runs-per-over after the powerplay was over, which was going to be arduous given that Chennai’s middle-order has failed miserably this season and none of their batsmen has been in any sort of form whatsoever.
Mumbai’s bowlers were clinical in the way they went about their trade, using the scoreboard pressure to their advantage and halting the CSK batsmen from ball No. 1.
Smith top-scored for the visitors with a 48-ball 59, which was an unusual innings from him and not one that gave Chennai the kind of start they were looking for in pursuit of 203. CSK, as a result, left themselves with too much to do in the last quarter of the game and started losing wickets in a heap towards the end.
The Indians went on to win the game by a massive 41 runs, thereby clinching their second IPL title and issuing a warning to the other franchises. What did we make of that one-sided IPL 2015 final?
Mumbai showed the quality of champions
Chennai couldn’t have asked for a better start than the one they got when Parthiv ran himself out in trying to pinch a single against du Plessis at mid-on.
Mumbai have thrived on the good starts rendered by their openers throughout this season, and an early wicket surely wasn’t the way to start, as far as they were concerned.
However, having said that, Rohit walked in at No.3 and took the attack to the opposition, playing freely and taking Chennai by surprise.
The visitors probably didn’t see it coming, as Simmons was Rohit’s batting partner and expected to play the big shots, with the skipper anchoring the innings.
It was quite a significant phase – from the second over till the completion of the powerplay – in the game, which was won by Mumbai and that then gave them the edge over their opponents on the night.
There was another crucial phase during the MI innings, when Rohit and Simmons got out in a matter of a couple of balls and Chennai had a chance to get back into the game.
Rayudu and Pollard, though, were sensible in the way they approached it, not relinquishing the advantage their side had gotten as a result of the 119-run stand between Simmons and Rohit.
During their batting innings, Mumbai played the better cricket than Chennai, who couldn’t come up with the answers to the questions the Indians put forward to them.
A good batting performance helped the visitors pile on 202 on the night of the final, but it was important for them to kill the game off by bowling well at the beginning of CSK’s innings; by restricting Chennai to a paltry 31/1 from the mandatory powerplay, Mumbai got a stranglehold of the game and didn’t look back thereafter.
Therefore, they showed the quality of the champions and were deserving of their second IPL title.
Chennai are a declining force in the IPL
On a night when MI issued a statement of intent to the rest of the IPL outfits, Chennai, by way of losing their third straight final, increasingly look like a side who are on the decline.
They have by far been the most consistent side throughout the history of the IPL, but this season has been a poor one by their standards and their weaknesses were exploited by Mumbai last night.
Chennai lost the moments in the game they were expected to come out on top, and their poor performance contributed to such a one-sided final.
Mumbai played a sumptuous brand of cricket, but the visitors never came up with one stern response and that is the primary reason why I think they are fast becoming a declining force in the IPL.
The nature of the T20 cricket is such that it can make you look too good one day, and the exact opposite on another. But Chennai were appalling as a unit, led by Dhoni, who needs to raise his game first and foremost.
The decision to field first was another one of those tactical errors he has made this season, and then his failure to conjure up a turnaround after Mumbai looked in complete control of the game, was not good to see, at all.
If the Super Kings need to return to their impeccable best as a unit, Dhoni the batsman needs to fire and CSK’s batting line-up needs to come good collectively as well.
Dhoni’s captaincy and the way he manipulated his bowling options, was predictable and left a lot to be desired.
I thought that he could have utilized Dwayne Bravo better than he did throughout this season. The all-rounder finished the season with 26 wickets and was tough to get away for most batsmen in the IPL. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to maybe use him for an over or two in the first half of the batting innings, thereby stop the opponents from dictating the tempo and easily grab at least one wicket, which can mean so much in the context of a T20 game.
While their skipper typified CSK’s season, the likes of Suresh Raina, Smith and du Plessis disappointed with the bat, too, and it was probably ‘the’ reason for Chennai failing to be competitive during the second half of the season.
MI played their best cricket on the night of the finals
The Indians, as we all have seen, made an obnoxious start to their IPL 2015 campaign, losing the first four games and inviting serious derision for the way they kept failing as a unit during the first few weeks of the eighth edition of the Pepsi IPL.
They turned their form around before the completion of the first half of the league phase and hit their best form midway through the second half of the tournament.
However, it wasn’t as though they dominated their games and registered comfortable victories; they had to work hard to get two points in the league phase and even in the qualifier 1, Mumbai had to drop sweat and blood to overcome CSK.
On the night of the finals, though, MI’s performance was very close to flawless, and that was the reason for Chennai struggling to find enough openings and get themselves back into the game.
Mumbai were brilliant with the bat; the bowling attack fed off the good work done by the batsmen, and the ground fielding and catching were better than on most nights during this IPL.
It was a comprehensive MI performance that couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate stage of the tournament.
Rohit leading from the front was invigorating to see
In the build up to the Qualifier 1 against CSK, Rohit spoke quite a lot about playing fearless cricket and it, therefore, was rather good to see the captain taking the mantle upon himself and living up to his own words.
When he came into bat, his side was in a spot of bother, and it could have been easy for him to think of smothering the Chennai bowling attack, playing the anchor role and focusing too much on not losing any more wickets in the powerplay.
But there was genuine intent from Rohit, who struck boundaries from the first delivery he faced and thereby shifting the pressure back on to the Chennai bowlers.
Rohit, during his vigil in the middle, scored runs across all areas of the ground and finished with 50 (26), an innings that was punctuated with six 4s and a couple of crisply struck 6s. I thought Rohit’s innings was one of the major turning points in the game.
When Mumbai came on to bowl, Rohit once again was astute in the way he utilized his bowlers, clearly understanding the situation of the game and executing his tactics perfectly.
Like in the Qualifier 1, he had to make a decision of not bowling Jagadeesha Suchith while the visitors had a left-hander batting in the middle, and he manipulated his other bowling options very well. Suchith, in fact, never bowled in the game, which saw Hardik Pandya complete his four overs for the first time in the title-winning season.
The stylish right-hander was probably not as consistent as he would have liked to be with the bat, but overall, Rohit had a wonderful IPL 2015 season as a skipper and secondly, batsman.
In hindsight, it wasn’t an unexpected result, except for the margin of it
Chennai did well to win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Qualifier 2 and qualify for the sixth IPL final in their history.
However, despite that three-wicket victory, Dhoni’s devils had won just 4 of their nine games prior to last night’s finals, while Mumbai, on the other hand, had won eight of their nine games and were clearly the favorites to pip CSK for the title.
Mumbai outshone Chennai in all three departments of the game and, as aforementioned, the visitors didn’t have an answer to the dominance shown by the hosts.
CSK were afforded very few chances or opportunities if at all there were any, and the Indians were well-organized, an aspect that Chennai lacked.
Maybe in the final of a T20 competition, you didn’t expect such a massive margin of victory for Mumbai, considering that Chennai are a good side and thrive on occasions such as last night’s.
However, they simply weren’t at it, and simply put, the in-form side clinched it.
Chennai, with their loss yesterday, have now won only two of the six IPL finals they have contested, and it was a shame that they didn’t even manage to run a resurgent MI side close.
From Mumbai’s perspective, it was yet another team performance that had every member of the playing XI contributing in one way or another, to help their side win the title back from KKR’s grasp. With their 10th victory in their last 11 games, MI completed the turnaround by winning the prestigious crown.