Mumbai Indians: Well-oiled, in cruise control

Brilliant throughout the tournament and then dominating in the final, Mumbai Indians played an awe-inspiring brand of cricket to clinch the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League.

As they lifted their fifth IPL title in seven years starting from 2013, the quality which shone through most in the performance of MI was the winning mentality, which at one time was synonymous with the Mumbai cricket teams.

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After helping his team defend the title, MI captain Rohit Sharma said their mantra for IPL13 was to keep winning. For the record, MI lost just five of their 14 league games to top the points table – one an inconsequential game against Sunrisers Hyderabad that Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult sat out. They brushed aside Delhi Capitals in all four meetings, twice into the playoffs, underlining awesome consistency.

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“We said at the start we want to make winning a habit; the guys were excellent through the tournament. We couldn’t have asked for anything more from each one of them. We were on the money from ball one, when we started; till today (Tuesday), we never looked back,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation.

In one of the most one-sided finals, MI thrashed Capitals by five wickets at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Along with Kieron Pollard, Rohit has been an integral part of all five title triumphs. It is six for Rohit if one adds his win with Deccan Chargers in 2009.

“It is a great feeling, it means a lot. Having been here for 11 years, (winning the) fifth trophy is fantastic,” Pollard said in his post-match interview. MI have also won two Champions League T20 titles, in 2011 and 2013.

Congratulating the team, MI legend Sachin Tendulkar tweeted that the team continued from where it had finished in 2019. “What a victory by the boys! Complete domination by MI. Well done to the players and the support staff.”

Rohit credited extensive homework and planning by team management and coaching staff for the success. From analysing which player was ideal to fit the balance of the team to grooming young players, MI had all bases covered. The best example is how they pick the core players and set the team around them.

Pollard has been with MI since 2009 and they have held on to him since, even when his form fluctuated. Rohit has been the long-term captain, leading them to five titles in seven seasons. The bowling plans revolve around Jasprit Bumrah, who started in 2013 and has been part of all the winning campaigns. The other two seen as core group members are the Pandya brothers (Hardik has won four titles and Krunal three).

“A lot of credit goes to people behind the scenes as well; they often don’t get noticed. Our work starts much, much earlier than IPL,” said Rohit.

If thrice champions Chennai Super Kings were the smartest operators at the inaugural auction table with buys such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Matthew Hayden, Suresh Raina, Stephen Fleming, Muttiah Muralitharan and Michael Hussey, MI have become as good with their player picks.

They have got great returns for investing in the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan. Their selections ahead of this season that standout are Trent Boult (25 wickets) and James Pattinson (11 wickets). The two formed a strong pace combination with Jasprit Bumrah, which set the tone for the successful campaign.

Suryakumar has been part of three victorious campaigns and Ishan Kishan two. When Ishan was bought for R6.2 crore in the 2018 auction critics felt MI had paid too much. He has made the difference with daring batting and flexibility.

“Surya and Ishan have been superb; they are very talented with their shot-making and you want to capitalise when you have players like them. It was important for us to give them that freedom, and they played with freedom. We gave them real confidence to go out there and enjoy themselves. Through the season it was a pleasure to watch Surya bat. Some of the shots he played the entire season, I don’t think anyone (else) could,” said Rohit.

Fitting nicely as an opener (when Rohit was injured) and in the middle-order, Kishan scored 516 runs with most sixes (30) in the tournament. At No.3, Suryakumar had a tally of 480 runs with four half-centuries (Strike Rate: 145).

Equally important has been finding the balance, Krunal Pandya being an example. With six wickets and 109 runs from 16 games, he may struggle to find a regular spot in some of the other teams, but he is among the first names on the MI team list for the specific role he plays.

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