Mumbai Indians have played like cornered tigers. After losing four matches in a row at the start of Indian Premier League-8, few would have expected Rohit Sharma & Co to finish second in the points tally at the end of the league phase.
With every game almost like a do-or-die situation after their four defeats, Mumbai Indians surprised everyone by winning seven out of their last eight matches to storm into the play-offs. Today, Mumbai Indians take on Chennai Super Kings, who have entered the play-offs for the eighth time on the trot, at the Wankhede Stadium.
mid-day looks at Mumbai Indians' turnaround and how their once wayward bowling, inconsistent batting and occasionally sloppy fielding suddenly reversed at the right time.
The turning point
The 20-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Wankhede Stadium on April 25 was just the kind of win MI needed to boost their confidence.
Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma (left), Hardik Pandya, Harbhajan Singh and Parthiv Patel (right) celebrate the wicket of Delhi Daredevils' Angelo Mathews at Wankhede recently. Pics/ATUL Kamble, Suresh KK
Defending 157 on a good batting track gave the MI bowlers the belief that was lacking. And MI never looked back from here, winning seven matches (that included five wins in-a-row) out of their last eight games.
Mitchell Johnson played a stellar role for MI during their 2013 IPL triumph. And this time, to another Mitchell — Kiwi left-arm medium pacer McClenaghan — delivered the goods with the ball. MI first introduced McClenaghan in their fifth match against Royal Challengers Bangalore on April 19.
Mitchell McClenaghan celebrates the wicket of SRH's Ravi Bopara
He has been the perfect ally from the other end for MI's chief pacer Lasith Malinga. His 3-16 against Surnrisers Hyderabad was a decisive factor in Mumbai Indians clinching the
play-offs berth on Sunday. The Kiwi pacer has claimed 14 wickets so far and is on par with off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Malinga bounces back
The Lankan speedster, who did not have a good World Cup campaign, was a bit off-colour going into Mumbai Indians' initial matches. Malinga has been MI's pace mainstay over the years, so his form was crucial. He finally came good in the April 25 clash against SRH, where he claimed 4-23 to stun David Warner & Co.
Lasith Malinga bowls against KXIP at the Wankhede recently
In the last seven matches, Malinga has claimed 13 wickets as compared to six in his first six IPL-8 games. The trio of Malinga, McClenaghan and Harbhajan made MI's bowling more potent as the tournament progressed.
No more opening blues
The opening partnership was one of the crucial aspects that the Mumbai Indians were unable to set right. They were frequently losing both openers inside the Powerplay. However, the experiment of partnering Parthiv Patel with Lendl Simmons worked after a few hiccups initially.
Opener Lendl Simmons (left) and Parthiv Patel during their 111-run stand against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali on May 3. Pic: PTI/BCCI
While Simmons has consistently scored at the top (407 runs in 11 innings), Patel has been scratchy in most of his 12 innings. However, the Gujarat skipper's unbeaten 51 against SRH on Sunday would have come as a huge relief for the MI camp.
Kieron Pollard has rarely disappointed when the chips are down. He may not have a big score yet in IPL-8 to attract attention, but his little contributions have been game-changing nevertheless.
Kieron Pollard celebrates MI’s win over Knight Riders last week
Pollard's last over heroics against Kolkata Knight Riders, where he conceded only six runs and saw his team win by five runs last Thursday at the Wankhede Stadium, was incredible considering the West Indian had last bowled for MI over a month ago. His ability to handle pressure is probably the reason MI have so much faith in Pollard.
Mumbai Indians have looked into the minutest of areas to get back to winning ways. From bowling 16 extras in a match against RCB on April 19, the MI bowlers have consciously cut down on freebies. In the last six matches, MI have bowled six extras on an average.
Middle order impact
Ambati Rayudu (235 runs in 12 innings) and Hardik Pandya (111 runs in six innings) have played vital roles in giving MI the extra push in the death overs.
Ambati Rayudu en route his unbeaten 27-ball 53 against Rajasthan Royals on May 1
Rayudu's unbeaten 53 vs RR on May 1 helped MI score 187, while his unbeaten 49 helped MI see off Delhi Daredevils on May 5 with just three balls to spare. Pandya has been a revelation with his ability to hit big shots at will. His power-packed 61 not out vs KKR helped MI put up a fighting total of 171.