Mumbai Indians (MI) won their second Indian Premier League (IPL) title (IPL 2015) last Sunday, when they easily defeated six-time finalists Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by 41 runs at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, a venue where they won their first IPL title and against the same opposition, too, a couple of years ago.
It was such an imperious performance from Rohit Sharma‘s men, who were not even given a smidgen chance of qualifying for the playoffs after they lost their first four games and looked a disjointed unit altogether.
The turnaround began with an 18-run victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, where their batsmen collectively came good for the first time in the tournament and the bowlers did enough to stop the Royal Challengers from scoring 210 in response.
The victory in Bangalore was followed by a massive loss to the Delhi Daredevils (DD) at the Feroz Shah Kotla, and Mumbai were languishing at the bottom of the table with a mere two points from six games.
However, a run of five straight victories against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Rajasthan Royals (RR), Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Delhi and Chennai, in that order, saw MI get closer to the playoff positions and put themselves in serious contention to make it to the last four for the sixth consecutive season.
The thrilling last over victory against Chennai, which was sealed by an exhilarating batting partnership between Hardik Pandya and the ever-reliable Ambati Rayudu, was followed by a defeat to RCB at the Wankhede Stadium; it pushed Mumbai into a tight corner, as they needed to win their remaining two games against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Sunrisers, in order to qualify.
Royal Challengers were unfortunate with the weather playing spoilsport in their last game against Delhi, with a washout there restricting them to just seven wins from 14 league games and meant that they could only get to 16 points.
Therefore, MI, going into their last league game, were in a position where a win over Sunrisers, would see them move into second place behind CSK, on the basis of winning a game more than RCB, whose better net run-rate than Mumbai was overlooked.
A comfortable 9-wicket victory against David Warner’s side helped the Indians progress into the playoffs, with the Qualifier 1 being held at the Wankhede Stadium, their fortress.
Dhoni’s devils were the opposition, again, and Mumbai, batting first, piled up a massive 187/6 on the board, with Lendl Simmons, Kieron Pollard and Parthiv Patel scoring heavily and helping their team post such a huge total.
Chennai’s batsmen kept their team in it until the first half of their innings. But a two-wicket over from Harbhajan Singh, dismissing Suresh Raina and Dhoni in the 11th of CSK’s innings, brought the game under Mumbai’s control and they went on to register a comfortable 25-run victory that saw them progress to their 3rd IPL final.
In the finals, they were once again pitted against Chennai, who defeated the Royal Challengers by three wickets in the second qualifier, and MI started the game as favourites for the title.
Dhoni committed a howler in winning the toss and asking Mumbai to bat first, an opportunity they took full advantage of by posting 202/5 from their 20 overs.
The visitors’ batting lineup didn’t have a good season and it showed on the night of the finals, when they failed to pace their innings well and Mumbai bowlers, led by Lasith Malinga, proved a hot cup of coffee to handle for the CSK stroke-makers.
Mumbai, with a comprehensive 41-run win in the finals, became the third IPL side to have won two titles, along with Chennai and the Knight Riders. With the clinching of the trophy, Mumbai completed their turnaround, which, it has to be said, happened away from the spotlight.
The subsequent question, after winning the second title in three years, is whether Rohit and company can dominate the league in the seasons to follow.
Throughout the eighth edition of the IPL, everyone involved with the Nita Ambani-owned franchise kept reiterating the belief within the squad.
I think the Tasmanian’s personality would have been key to instilling the winning mentality within the squad, which didn’t have many decorated T20 players other than Malinga and Pollard. Ricky Ponting was appointed as the head coach prior to the season and though he didn’t have any coaching pedigree prior to taking up the role with MI, he was a winner right throughout his playing career.
Going forward, belief is something Mumbai need to have in abundance if they are to dominate the league. But, with the ‘Punter’ supervising proceedings for the Mumbai Indians, you can be rest assured that he will keep the players motivated and have them striving for consistency in the seasons to follow.
Talking of consistency, though, in a relatively long season, you are bound to have ups and downs and, if you want to be competing for the title, you need to have the quality to bounce back from defeats.
Mumbai, with NINE victories from their final 10 games, showed that they can go on a run of victories and have what it takes to recover from a string of defeats, too.
However, on that note, they need to be better prepared for next season and not make another horrendous start to their campaign, like they have done over the last couple of seasons.
Having won the title in the 2015 season and done so with a settled lineup for most of the second half, I feel that Mumbai probably can start off smoothly in 2016, when they will be defending their title.
Also, Pollard’s form with the bat was one of the marquee reasons for his side going all the way and getting the job done on the finals day. He has lacked a bit of consistency while playing for MI since joining the franchise in 2010 but, in the two IPL winning seasons, the hard-hitting West Indian has made serious contributions with the bat.
Pollard made 420 runs in the 2013 season and garnered 419 runs in 2015, proving his significance to the side while batting in that No.4, No.5 and No.6 positions. Holding onto him is going to be important, as he forms the core of the Mumbai lineup.
Simmons has had two mind-boggling seasons back-to-back for the Mumbai Indians, scoring 934 runs in 21 innings and repeatedly showing that he can play the long innings, which has what made him stand out from the other batsmen in the side.
In addition to the Pollard-Simmons duo, the likes of Rayudu, Pandya, Rohit and Parthiv, played a crucial role in their side putting up totals on the board and also chasing them down on a couple of occasions. Rayudu, in particular, was consistent throughout IPL 2015, playing match-winning knocks against Delhi and Rajasthan at the Wankhede, and Chennai at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Such a batting line-up looks good on paper and all of them showed good form in the season that has just been completed. A lot will depend on their batsmen if Mumbai are to dominate the IPL in the coming seasons, because batting has always been their strongest suit.
Now, the bowling department did come back strongly in 2015 after being taken to the cleaners by Brendon McCullum at home; by Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla and also by the likes of KKR and Kings XI, who found it pretty easy to score over 170 runs against the MI bowling attack during the first half of the recently concluded IPL season.
The main reason, however, for such poor bowling performances was Malinga’s wretched form at the beginning of the campaign. Someone like Steven Smith showed utter disdain in his treatment of the Sri Lankan quickie, who went for massive runs and couldn’t buy more than one wicket, at least for the first four games of the season.
Malinga has delivered the goods season after season for Mumbai Indians, however, it cannot be a good thing to rely heavily on him. Injury to Corey Anderson, in particular, was a blessing in disguise for the 2015 IPL champions, who then brought in Mitchell McClenaghan and started tasting success from that point onwards. The New Zealand seamer bowled well since coming in, but the form of Malinga picked up, too, as the season progressed.
While the Malinga-McClenaghan bowling combination does bode well for the future, Mumbai need to look for an Indian bowler who can at least be half as good as the aforementioned overseas duo.
Vinay Kumar was an unimpressive buy, for me, and he was the weak link in his side’s bowling attack that even had someone like Jagadeesha Suchith, the 21-year old Karnataka left-arm orthodox spinner, thriving on his first taste of the IPL and picking up 10 wickets from 13 games, and really did bowl well for the Mumbai Indians.
Harbhajan Singh picked up 18 wickets from 15 games and proved his worth once again. His performances for Mumbai earned him a call-up to the national side that has been picked for the one-off Test match against Bangladesh next month.
Mumbai Indians found success with that playing XI, which was not a world-beating one by any means.
Let us not overlook the leadership qualities of Rohit, who showed a good head on his shoulders and tactically was very adept at the way he concealed the chinks in his side’s bowling attack. Therefore, a big portion of the success has to be attributed to Rohit, as well, for the way he led the side.
However, Mumbai Indians need better Indian players than the ones who were part of their title-winning 2015 season: Jasprit Bumrah, Pawan Suyal, Unmukt Chand, Aditya Tare, Shreyas Gopal, Pragyan Ojha, Akshay Wakhare, Siddesh Lad, Abhimanyu Mithun, Nitish Rana.
They need to strengthen the side massively if they are to continue winning titles and, even better, dominate the league.
Mumbai Indians winning the title in the season that has just finished is one of ‘the’ success stories of the IPL history.
They have by far the most immaculate backroom staff – Jonty Rhodes, Robin Singh, Shane Bond and Sachin Tendulkar, in addition to the head coach – compared to the other franchises, and we cannot underestimate the impact they would have had in the Indians turning around their form.
Mumbai Indians played as a unit and it was their team performances during the second half of the season, that won them the title. As aforementioned, however, they need to bring in better Indian players to complement the good overseas personnel at their disposal.
They have the necessary tools to dominate the IPL scene, and that has to be the next target for the franchise.