From the bottom of the table to champions in the course of four weeks. Harish Kotian/Rediff.com summarizes Mumbai Indians's astonishing turnaround in IPL 8.
Mumbai Indians have made it a habit of leaving it late.
Last year they started off their campaign in the Indian Premier League with five successive defeats, but still made it to the play-offs, where they lost to Chennai Super Kings in the Eliminator.
This season was no different. They lost their first four matches, but went all the way this time, winning nine of their last 11 matches, en route to their second Indian Premier League title.
In fact, Mumbai Indians was the last team to make it to the play-off following victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad. It saw them jump to second place on the eight-team preliminary league table.
Mumbai’s batting might came to the party in both their matches against Chennai Super Kings, including the first Qualifier and final as they romped home to an easy victory in both games.
Looking back, it seems that losing some of their foreign players due to injury proved a blessing in disguise.
Australia’s Aaron Finch struggled in the first three matches before he was ruled out with injury. His replacement, Lendl Simmons, was a revelation at the top of the order. The West Indian hit 540 runs in 13 matches, including six half-centuries, and a crucial knock of 68 in the final against Chennai Super Kings.
Kiwi pacer Mitchell McClenaghan’s inclusion, in place of the injured Corey Anderson, also was another masterstroke.
The left-arm pacer claimed 18 wickets in 12 matches and delivered in crucial matches, including the final where he took three for 25 and the do-or-die match against Sunrisers, where he claimed three for 16.
Mumbai’s bowling struggled in the early games, as Lasith Malinga took time to find his rhythm. In their first four losses, their bowling was their weak point. They lost to Kolkata Knight Riders in their opening match despite posting 168, while in the next Kings XI Punjab amassed a huge 177 for five at the Wankhede stadium and won by 18 runs.
Mumbai posted 164 against Rajasthan Royals but it was not enough and they lost by seven wickets, with five deliveries to spare.
Then, a huge score of 183 was no match for Chennai Super Kings, who raced to victory with more than three overs to spare.
Their first victory in the tournament, against Royal Challengers Bangalore, was only because their batsmen posted a huge 209 for seven even as the opposition finished on 191 for seven.
Delhi Daredevils struggled throughout the tournament but they feasted on Mumbai’s bowling to post a massive 190 which saw them register a 37-run victory.
The turning point for Mumbai’s campaign came against Sunrisers when the two ‘Ms’ finally clicked in unison. Malinga took four for 23 and McClenaghan claimed three for 20, which resulted in a 20-run victory, defending a modest 157 for eight.
Thereafter, there was no stopping the charge of the Rohit Sharma-led team.
It was payback time as Rajasthan Royals, Kings XI Punjab, Delhi Daredevils and Chennai Super Kings, all of whom who had won their first round matches against Mumbai, were swept away with considerate ease.
It took only a special innings from AB de Villiers to stall Mumbai’s juggernaut.
The South African played a breathtaking innings of 133 from 59 balls to lead RCB to a 39-run victory but that only proved to a temporary blip.
Two successive wins against Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad saw Mumbai bounce back from their poor start to claim a place in the play-offs.
That Mumbai finished second in the points table meant they had jumped the queue and made it to Qualifier 1 against Chennai Super Kings, the winners directly making it to the final.
CSK were no match for Mumbai as opener Simmons’s brisk half-century (65) took them to a huge 187. In reply, Harbhajan Singh's twin strikes, including the wickets of Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni off successive deliveries derailed their opposition’s run chase.
In the final, again, it was Chennai, who strangely opted to bowl on a good batting wicket. Dhoni’s decision ultimately proved to be crucial in the final analysis.
Mumbai never looked back as Rohit Sharma (50) and Simmons (68) propelled them to a huge 202 which ultimately was a match-winning total.
Chennai never got going in the run-chase and were thrashed by 41 runs, Mumbai Indians bagging their second IPL title.
From the bottom of the table to champions in the course of four weeks, Mumbai’s astonishing turnaround in IPL 8 will certainly rank as among the best sporting comebacks in recent years.