In the previous five IPL seasons, Mumbai Indians had given their fans enough hope but each time failed to live up to the expectations. All that changed on Saturday, May 26 when they overpowered two-time winners Chennai Super Kings in the final at Eden Gardens. The team, led by a young captain in Rohit Sharma, put aside the disappointments of the previous seasons and went a step ahead by winning the trophy.
In spite of having the best talent pool, Mumbai could never do justice with it. The closest they came to winning the title in 2010, when they finished runners-up to CSK. Otherwise, they finished fifth in 2008, second from last in 2009, third in 2011 and fourth in 2012.
But they made several significant changes between the fifth and sixth seasons of the IPL. Roping in former India captain Anil Kumble as team mentor two weeks before the 2013 auction was one of them. A few days later, they appointed former New Zealand skipper John Wright as head coach. At the players auction on February 3 they went on a shopping spree, buying Ricky Ponting ($400,000), allrounder Glenn Maxwell ($1 million), fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile ($450,000) and batsman Phillip Hughes ($100,000). Then the team management went against the popular choice of re-appointing Sachin Tendulkar as skipper for the new season and chose Ponting to lead.
Ponting, who was back in the IPL after four years and in outstanding first-class form following his international retirement, was expected to change the team's fortune. Although he led Mumbai to victory in three of his first four matches, two back-to-back losses had put doubts in everyone's mind about their prospects. Ponting's form with the bat was equally uninspiring, with the former Aussie skipper making just 52 in seven matches. Then came the masterstroke to to drop an out-of-form Ponting and give the reigns to Rohit. The team's fortune changed thereafter.
Rohit led the side extremely well, helping them win ten matches, including six of eight wins at home. The captaincy not only made him calm but the added responsibility also brought the best out of him. He was smart with his bowling changes and kept up the morale of the side up throughout. No wonder Rohit was so excited after winning the trophy.
"It [captaincy] was a huge challenge for me. The moment it came to me, I was ready [for it]. I thank everyone who believed that I could do the job," he said while holding the trophy.
Rohit was ably supported by everyone in the team. While their batsmen scored runs whenever required, Mumbai's bowlers took wickets in crucial situations. The form of Mitchell Johnson and Harbhajan Singh has turned out to be the revelation. While Johnson did the job of providing the side early breakthroughs, Harbhajan strangled the opposition in the middle overs. Both took 24 wickets; Harbhajan finished third on the overall tally and Johnson ending fourth.
This was Kieron Pollard's fourth season for Mumbai and he made sure that it ended up a winning note. He demolished the opposition with his power-hitting, scoring 420 runs at an average of 42 and strike rate of 149.46, including 29 sixes in the tournament. His 66 off 33 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and 60 off 32 in the final proved the cornerstone to Mumbai's success.
The gamble of splurging a million dollars on Maxwell didn't work as the Australian couldn't fit to their scheme of things till the end. It is also fair to say that Tendulkar struggled with the bat in his last IPL. The veteran batsmen gave the side some good starts, but couldn't go on to make any big contribution.
The same cannot be said about Dinesh Karthik, who got a new lease of life in this tournament. His crucial knocks at the start of the league meant he was selected in the Indian team for the ICC Champions Trophy next month. He was fluent with the bat, scoring 510 runs, and was extremely nimble behind the wickets.
What happened off the field surely took some sheen off the way IPL was played. It was competitive, with most of the teams giving their best possible effort. But it was Mumbai who displayed their true potential and came out winning at the end.