On the night of the final, Mumbai Indians opted to bench one of their more consistent performers for a player who made a single appearance throughout the competition. In most cases, one would be critical of the decision. ‘Why make a change like this in the biggest game of the tournament?’
But even as Rohit Sharma specifically mentioned the decision to bench Rahul Chahar for Jayant Yadav as a “tactical change,” the criticism was bare minimum. Instead, if anything, there was appreciation for MI team management’s astute tactical thinking ahead of the game.
Sometimes, even when such decisions make complete sense, there remains an ambiguity. With MI, though, there was a sense of total conviction. One doesn’t earn such sort of a reputation overnight. What Mumbai Indians did yesterday wasn’t just a product of a tactical change or players stepping up on the field at the right time. It came through years of consistent planning, scouting, grooming and ideation. There is no wonder why Mumbai Indians are called the best T20 outfit in the world.
As Mumbai Indians achieved their fifth IPL title, there were many factors which were a direct result of astute tactical analysis and consistent backing of players. Let's take a look in brief:
The Boult Factor
When Delhi Capitals offered Trent Boult to Mumbai Indians, they didn’t even know what they were giving – or losing. The simple reason behind it was that the Capitals had expected Boult to be proper T20 bowler – ‘get me wickets early on, get me wickets at the end, bowl into the block hole, don’t give away too many runs at death’.
There are a few bowlers who can do all of it better than the Kiwi pacer.
MI, however, had a specific role in mind for Boult. They only asked him to get the swing up front. ‘Get me wickets at your strength, the rest can be covered by the other bowlers’. This immediately made Boult more comfortable and he exploited his ability to full use in this edition. He ended up with 25 wickets in 15 games, which is his best outing in the tournament.
The young wicketkeeper-batsman enjoyed a breakthrough season this year, as he breached the 500-run mark for the first time. The batsman unleashed his true potential in this season as he also scored the most sixes in the tournament.
In a league which boasts of the Gayles, the Maxwells, the Pollards and ABDs, an uncapped Indian player making a mark to reach the top spot remains a story of its own.
Kishan revealed that he was feeling low on confidence and fitness ahead of the tournament, but conversations with MI’s Pandya brothers (Krunal and Hardik) helped him get in shape.
No Malinga? No problem!
Lasith Malinga has been one of the mainstays for the Mumbai Indians for many years now. It came as a huge setback when it was confirmed that Malinga won’t be taking part in the tournament. After all, he was the side’s primary fast bowler and made an exemplary contribution in their title-winning seasons.
MI, however, remained unfazed. Having delegated the responsibility of opening overs to Trent Boult, the franchise signed handy Aussie pacer James Pattinson – and played him and Nathan Coulter-Nile in tandem throughout the tournament. While Pattinson bagged 11 wickets in 10 games, Coulter-Nile picked up five in seven.
Jasprit Bumrah enjoyed the added responsibility as MI’s go-to bowler for the death overs, as he bowled with an economy rate of merely 6.73, finishing as tournament’s second-highest wicket-taker (27 wickets).
Rohit Sharma’s form remained a primary concern for Mumbai Indians throughout the season. Ahead of the season, it was also debated whether MI’s middle-order was strong enough to sustain the run through to the final. However, Suryakumar Yadav (480 runs in 16 matches) and Ishan Kishan (516 runs in 14 matches) quashed all the doubts over the middle-order stability.
Delhi Capitals, the other finalists, also faced issues in the opening order throughout the season. However, while the MI have pre-defined roles for their players, Delhi Capitals kept entangled in the web of their own. Rishabh Pant never took off and seemed to play more conservatively when his natural game was to attack, and constant shuffling in batting positions between him and Hetmyer – in addition to Ajinkya Rahane being in-and-out of the side, did no good for the DC.