The road to the 2019 Indian Premier League finals for Mumbai Indians has been a journey filled with obstacles and hurdles, but to overcome them and finish at the top of the IPL points table defines the Rohit Sharma led Mumbai's side this season. Doing a triple over defending champions Chennai Super Kings in the 12th edition of the cash-rich league and to now facing their arch-rivals for the fourth time in the finals, CSK and MI are a match made in heaven.
Mumbai built their squad on their core team once again, brought back their key bowler Lasith Malinga, made Rohit Sharma open again, found a lethal spin option in Rahul Chahar, Hardik Pandya stepping up, Quinton de Kock delivering with bat and gloves and Keiron Pollard shouldering responsibilities this season.
Mumbai had claimed the top spot on the points table after 14 league matches with 9 wins and 5 losses and a better Net Run Rate (NRR) than CSK saw the Mumbai Blues above second-placed CSK.
It can't be disputed that Mumbai go into the final as the favourites, having beaten CSK as many as three times earlier in the tournament including in the Qualifier 1 at Chennai on Tuesday.
However, statistics count for little going into the title fight with both teams being in the situation before multiple times. Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai can certainly take confidence out of the fact that they have won three out of the four finals they have been part of, including the two against CSK in 2013 and 2015.
However, this road to the 2019 final would not have been possible without a few players who have stood out for the three-time champions who look on making it a record four on Sunday.
Since his comments on a TV show landed him in deep trouble, the flamboyant all-rounder made the most of the opportunities presented and has grabbed them with open arms. To improving his length to standing tall and delivering some hard knocks with the bat, the younger Pandya has been MI's backbone. To chasing targets to scoring this fastest fifty this season off 17-balls to nearly reaching the three-digit mark for the first time, Pandya has been a pivotal part in Mumbai's road to the final.
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Quinton de Kock
The South African wicket-keeper has played an immense role in Mumbai's success this season. Opening with skipper Rohit Sharma this season, de Kock has scored a whopping 500 runs in 15 matches played (14 + Qualifier 1) which includes 4 fifties so far. Other than the bat, De Kock has been instrumental with the goves as well as he has taken some stunning catches this season.
Rohit and Co. have dealt with CSK's spin threat smartly while other teams' batsmen struggled against the experience trio of Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja. CSK pacer Deepak Chahar too has been impressive with 19 wickets so far.
Going into the Qualifier 2, the lack of runs from Shane Watson's bat was a concern but he regained his touch with a 32-ball 50 against Delhi Capitals.
Mumbai, on the other hand, will be well rested following a four-day break and backing themselves for a fourth win over Dhoni's side this season and fourth IPL title.