Sunil Gavaskar: Another IPL, another Mumbai Indians win

Mumbai started the defence of its IPL title on the wrong foot when it lost the opening game of this year’s edition to last year’s runner-up Chennai Super Kings.

Members of the Mumbai Indians team celebrate after clinching their fifth IPL title.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

Mumbai started the defence of its IPL title on the wrong foot when it lost the opening game of this year’s edition to last year’s runner-up Chennai. Those who have followed its fortunes over the years shook their heads and said ‘not to worry, they are slow starters anyway’.

It began winning straight after that loss which was almost like a wake-up call. The team played such outstanding cricket after that and there was never any doubt that it would be hard to beat. It did lose, too, but never in a manner to cause any concern and even when it lost by 10 wickets to the Hyderabad team it was shrugged off as one bad day at the office. Mumbai also coped well with the absence — through injury — of its skipper Rohit Sharma with Kieron Pollard continuing the winning momentum.

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The Delhi team had a much more topsy-turvy ride. This was probably the most competitive tournament as the bottom three teams finished with 12 points each. Delhi’s problems were more to do with its batting. In Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje it had an opening bowling pair that took wickets at the start and bowled stingily at the death in most games. If only Delhi’s batting had stood up, it would be smiling today instead of being the runner-up.

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Shreyas Iyer had the right idea when he chose to bat first in the final as the pressure of a final can make even the the best teams cave in while chasing a modest total. Things went wrong from the first ball when Marcus Stoinis, who had been Delhi’s game-changer with both bat and ball, was dismissed by a snorter from Trent Boult. It was a blow from which Delhi never really recovered as Ajinkya Rahane and the in-form Shikhar Dhawan also followed shortly after. Skipper Iyer and Rishabh Pant put together a very good partnership and it was the perfect platform for Shimron Hetmyer to show why he is rated so high. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do much and Mumbai's bowlers had once again done a magnificent job in restricting the opposition to a gettable score. Delhi was at least 15 to 20 runs short and that’s exactly how it turned out to be.

Mumbai coped well with the absence — through injury — of its skipper Rohit Sharma with Kieron Pollard continuing the winning momentum.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

 

By his lofty standards Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma has had a lean IPL season. He was injured and was left out of the Indian team to tour Australia after the IPL (later he was included in the Test squad). Therefore, to see him come and play in the last league game was not only a surprise but it also raised a bit of a controversy as to how could a player left out of the team because of an injury come out and play now. He seemed rusty after having missed out some of the league games and also a bit conscious of the injury, but by the time the final came, a week later, he was fine and it was his strokeful innings that shaped Mumbai’s chase for its fifth title. If Boult dealt the first blow while Mumbai were bowling it was Quinton de Kock who just did not allow the feared Delhi duo to strike as he attacked them with a barrage of shots and that allowed his partner Rohit to settle in nicely. After de Kock’s dismissal, Suryakumar Yadav — who has been in tremendous form — carried on the good work. Rohit was in top gear even after the sad mix-up that resulted in Yadav sacrificing his wicket. The skipper had very good support from young Ishan Kishan, who is learning quickly from past mistakes.

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What promised to be a nail-biter petered out into a tame, predicted finish as Mumbai clinched the title yet again. It was a fabulously organised tournament and kudos to the BCCI which ensured that everything went without a hitch, even overseas. The curators at the three venues also deserve applause, for the pitches were terrific in every game.

Another IPL, another Mumbai win, but hey I am not complaining. In fact, I am over the moon!