Mumbai Indians: Path to the Final

For the fifth year in the row, Mumbai Indians have made it—against the run of form, play, logic, bookies’ odds and overall quality—to the playoffs. What’s more, they did this by finishing second in the table, the only time they hit the spot throughout the group stages, in the very game against SRH. By winning that, they finished only behind perennial table-toppers CSK


Second. Think about that. This is the same team that lost their first 5 games in 2014, and first 4 games in 2015. They were no-hopers for most part, not even hitting 4th spot for the group stages. But when the going got tough, they did an anti-KKR, winning 7 out of their last 8 games to seal yet another comeback in a tournament they have begun to own. 
It’s the same story every year: MI start the weakest, don’t know who their openers are, splurge on useless new imports (Levi, Finch, Blizzard), make mistakes, and finally settle on a second-hand combination that wins them games. 
Finch injured, Hazlewood injured and therefore, Simmons and Mclenaghan has to be utilized, and they’ve proven that there’s nothing like tried and tested. 
Simmons and Parthiv weren’t first-choice openers, but they’ve turned out to be the best partnership this season. Rohit has settled into no, 3, but is yet to score a 50 in his last 10 innings. His failures have been hidden by Simmons’ form though, who has top-scored in virtually every innings. The likes of Pandya and Rayadu have stepped up whenever needed, and they’ve finally brought in an effective left-arm spinner (Suchith) not named Pragyan Ojha
Harbhajan Singh has been the best spinner this tournament, picking up crucial wickets and barely giving away runs. In the qualifier against CSK at Wankhede, he picked up Raina and Dhoni in consecutive balls, before almost picking up Bravo on the last ball. That was perhaps the finest over of the tournament, the most impactful, and set MI on their way to their third final. 


Malinga has become predictable, yet he has somehow managed to pick up wickets. He looks overweight, unfit and out of shape, and he has dropped more sitters than anybody else. But he has still been their best death bowler. And he reminded everyone how, despite his predictability, his Yorkers are impossible to play when directed at the toes. Dhawan will forever remember in their virtual quarterfinal, when MI destroyed SRH after the quick dismissals of Dhawan and Warner in the first two overs. 

Suchith has brought energy into the field, and his slow left-arm bowling has made batsmen go after him, and fall to him. Rohit has marshaled his bowling well, after a dark first few games, and has taken charge with considerable resourcefulness. 

Most importantly, Kieron Pollard has found his voice again. He has smacked the ball harder than every other West Indies, and has even been allowed to bowl crucial overs. Chawla and Hogg will remember the final over he bowled—Rohit’s mistake when he had run out of bowlers—and he defended 10 runs with a slow, off-cutting series of 6 balls. 


8: No. of games MI have won out of their last 9
8: No. of lives Warner will live before getting over that ‘catch’; his mistake costing SRH a place in the playoffs and letting RCB go through
10: No. of people, including the support staff, who turn their heads away when Malinga drops another catch in front of them at the boundary. 
2: Position in the group stages 
2: No. of people, out of 100, who bet against MI reaching the playoffs—knowing that, with their owners behind them, there’s always a way. 
20: No. of years Ponting, Kumble, Rhodes, Tendulkar and others will stay with the squad after another miraculous run that, in no way, should only be attributed to their strategies. 

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