There is a reason why Mumbai Indians (MI) is the most successful Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise – it thrives even when barely allowed to live.
This season, the record five-time champion has missed the services of Jasprit Bumrah, seen an undercooked Jofra Archer go in and out of the XI and lost sleep over the meagre batting returns of Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit Sharma. Of the first seven matches, it had lost four.
Yet, at the Narendra Modi Stadium here on Friday, MI will play for a spot in another IPL final – its seventh in 16 editions – when it meets Gujarat Titans (GT) in Qualifier 2.
The side has piggybacked on the return to form of Suryakumar, the exploits of the unheralded pacer Akash Madhwal and batter Nehal Wadhera, and the intelligence of the shrewd old warhorse in leggie Piyush Chawla.
Each had a role to play in the spectacular 81-run thrashing of Lucknow Super Giants in the Eliminator on Wednesday, with Madhwal the standout performer, finishing with breathtaking figures of 3.3-0-5-5.
If basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s words “Your mind is what makes everything else work” are anything to go by, MI may even be a slight favourite against defending champion GT, for the latter appears to have sunk a bit after losing Qualifier 1 to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by 15 runs.
Against CSK, GT’s fortunes, despite possessing a well-rounded outfit, seemed to singularly depend on the magical willow of Shubman Gill. The deep batting line-up needs to come alive in order to complement what is a lethal bowling attack led by Mohammad Shami and Rashid Khan.
Another aspect worth keeping an eye on is GT’s approach to batting. Despite the presence of a few explosive hitters, Hardik Pandya & Co. believe in playing the percentages better. Will this work against MI’s intuitive and dashing style of cricket? Friday will tell.