When a player takes a bullet for his captain, you know the team will settle for nothing but a win. In the final of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 against Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians batsman Suryakumar Yadav strolled out of his crease to protect Rohit Sharma’s wicket, even though it was his skipper’s mistake in going for a run. Yadav looked at the larger picture — Sharma was well-set in a high-pressure game.
Sharma’s 51-ball 68 set the stage for Mumbai’s chase of 157, and the defending champion lifted the trophy for the fifth time, in Dubai on this occasion.
Delhi, a young team, deserves credit for making the final, but there’s not much you can do against a team that is made for the trophy. Given its current form, the Mumbai Indians side is capable of winning even the Twenty20 World Cup, former England batsman Michael Vaughan would agree.
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Not the usual good start
In all the years that Mumbai previously won the IPL title — 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 — it lost the first game. The pattern continued as it lost to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by five wickets in the season opener in Abu Dhabi — CSK’s first win against Mumbai in six games. Those were early days when every team in the United Arab Emirates tested its combinations. For Mumbai, Saurabh Tiwary made the XI ahead of Ishan Kishan, and Jasprit Bumrah went for 43 in his four overs while picking just the solitary wicket.
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Picking up slowly
Mumbai had a cakewalk against its familiar bunny, Kolkata Knight Riders. Sharma struck form with a 54-ball 80 with Yadav chipping in with a cheeky 47 off 31 balls. Tiwary’s 13-ball 21 helped the side get to 195/5. The success of the pace triumvirate of Trent Boult, Bumrah and James Pattinson began here as they restricted Kolkata to 146/9.
The fog around Mumbai’s champion tag started to clear when Kishan made the XI against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai. Chasing a target of 202, the Jharkhand youngster scored 99 off 58 balls to turn the tide after his side was four down for 78 runs. Kieron Pollard’s 24-ball 60 forced a Super Over, but Virat Kohli had the last laugh against Bumrah in the tie-breaker.
Mumbai never lost two matches in a row. It beat Kings XI Punjab by 48 runs in its next game with the pacers accounting for five wickets. Bumrah and Pattinson picked two each while Boult settled for one as Mumbai held Punjab by the neck. Sharma once again starred with the bat, scoring a 45-ball 70, as his team posted a competitive total of 191, Pollard remaining unbeaten on 47 off 20 balls.
Boult’s vicious swing troubled the Sunrisers Hyderabad batsmen in Sharjah, and the New Zealander won the Man of the Match award for his dismissals of Jonny Bairstow and Kane Williamson. Boult, of course, had a cushion to go berserk as Mumbai had put up 208, Quinton de Kock’s 39-ball 67 preceding effective contributions from the middle order. The Pandya brothers were destructive towards the back end with Hardik scoring 28 off 19; Krunal remained unbeaten on 20 off just four balls.
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The Mumbai side got better with time, and in the next game against Rajasthan Royals, Yadav showed his class. The right-hander smashed a 47-ball 79 to lift his side to 193 for the loss of four wickets. The seam bowlers accounted for nine wickets with Bumrah claiming four.
Boult and Pattinson picked up two each to destroy Rajasthan. The Royals didn’t even last the full 20 overs, being bowled out for 136 with 11 balls left.
The pacers had a quiet day on a slow wicket against Delhi Capitals in Abu Dhabi, but Krunal (2/26) troubled the batters with his left-arm spin. Shreyas Iyer’s side couldn’t go beyond 162, and de Kock and Yadav hit fifties as Mumbai chased down the target with two balls to spare.
Mumbai’s winning run continued in the second-leg meet against Kolkata. De Kock dazzled with an unbeaten 78 off 44 balls to chase a target of 149 inside 17 overs.
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One more Super Over loss
Mumbai lost its second Super Over of the tournament to Kings XI. First, Mohammed Shami single-handedly defended five runs with Sharma and de Kock at the crease. Later, Chris Gayle made mincemeat of Boult to win the game for Kings XI.
A hamstring strain ruled Sharma out of a few games, but under Kieron Pollard, Mumbai beat Chennai by 10 wickets to avenge the first-leg loss. The Yellow Army were found panting in front of Bumrah (2/25) and Boult (4/18). Mumbai then lost to Rajasthan Royals thanks to a spectacular century from Ben Stokes. In Sharma’s absence, Yadav rose to the occasion and took on the responsibility of finishing games. Remember the “I got this, trust me” gesture after he hit the winning runs against Bangalore in their second meeting? After Bumrah picked up three wickets to restrict Kohli’s men to 164, Yadav hit an unbeaten 79 off 43 balls to take his team home.
In its penultimate league game, Mumbai beat Delhi Capitals by nine wickets, Kishan hitting a 47-ball 72, to seal a spot in the playoffs. Mumbai let its hair down in the final league game against Hyderabad, losing by 10 wickets as it rested a few key players. But the side bounced back to beat Delhi for the third time this season — by 57 runs in Qualifier 1 for a place in the final.
Backing the players
The Mumbai Indians backroom staff, comprising coach Mahela Jayawardene, bowling coach Shane Bond, batting coach Robin Singh and director of cricket Zaheer Khan, bring a lot of calmness to the unit. They believe in backing their players; else how often do you see two uncapped players — Kishan and Yadav — scoring 450-plus runs in an IPL season.
Besides scoring 516 runs, Kishan also smashed 30 sixes — the most by any batsman in the tournament.
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Mumbai also values finger spinners such as Jayant Yadav who may not play all the games but will be front and centre in their limited appearances. Jayant was brought in when the team needed the ball to turn away from left-handers — in its last two games against a Delhi side that had Shikhar Dhawan, Shimron Hetmyer, Rishabh Pant and Axar Patel. Yadav cleaned up Dhawan in the final. And that’s how you win tournaments.