Stable structure and youth key to Mumbai Indians' successful IPL campaign

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Winning has become a habit for Mumbai Indians [Sportzpics]

Remember the 2010 final of the Indian Premier League? You probably don’t, for the clutter of T20 matches from the past ten years of this tournament is too intense.

When the haze lifts though, you will recall a clash between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. It was a grudge match, which the Super Kings won and stamped their authority as this league’s alpha team.

Until that point, it was a rag-tag bunch of adventurous cricketers – Rajasthan Royals (2008) and Deccan Chargers (2009) – who had taken the honours in the first two years. Back then, the IPL was in its infancy, still searching for an identity. Teams and their support staff were oblivious to methodical approaches for T20 cricket.

IPL was all a big unknown in its first three-year cycle at least, and yet the quest for glory between these two franchises was already a heated rivalry. Boasting of two marquee players in Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, Mumbai versus Chennai gave an inkling of Manchester United versus Arsenal. Or, Ferrari versus McLaren, even Real Madrid versus Barcelona – it was the ego clash of any IPL season.

Mumbai had made a huge strategic error in that 2010 final, by sending out Abhishek Nayar and Harbhajan Singh ahead of Kieron Pollard and JP Duminy. Chennai won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, and that set the cat amongst the pigeons.

As if to rectify this wrong, they boisterously began looking for options that would help them bridge this gap. Part of the plan was in adding more muscle to their squad: Tendulkar, Pollard, Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh were retained. Rohit Sharma was bought for a hefty 2 million USD, and later John Wright came on board the coaching staff along with Anil Kumble and Jonty Rhodes.

The key change-about though came in captaincy. Tendulkar was partly responsible for that strategic error in 2010, and before the 2012 season began, he stepped down as captain. Harbhajan Singh led then, and in 2013, Ricky Ponting was the designated skipper. Halfway through that season, he stepped down owing to poor form, and Sharma took over the reins.

Since that particular baton changed hands, Mumbai Indians – under Sharma – have won three IPL titles in five seasons.

Any, and every, IPL franchise looks for a marquee player. Tendulkar was Mumbai’s since 2008, and he still continues to be their non-playing icon. But from the very beginning, there was no doubt that this team needed a dash of youth, akin to what Chennai had with the likes of Dhoni, Suresh Raina and R Ashwin, or Royal Challengers Bangalore with Virat Kohli.

For the first three IPL seasons, Sharma played that role for Deccan Chargers. He was their big hope for the future. But for the reset auctions in 2011, he could still have been playing for that same franchise, probably even leading Sunrisers Hyderabad instead of David Warner.

It was Mumbai’s flexing of their financial muscle that got him to change teams that season, a sound investment that kept future into focus. The end-result is actually staggering. Sharma now has three IPL titles as captain, one more than both Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir (Kolkata Knight Riders), and three more than Kohli.

Sharma, both as captain and leading batsman, provided the focal point around which a team could evolve, an element Mumbai were keenly missing in their initial years. Sample this: his tally of 333 runs in this 2017 season is the lowest accumulated for any particular season in ten years of IPL. Even when not making a crucial impact with the bat, Sharma was steady in providing leadership.

Gradually then, this stability allowed the team management to focus on other angles. Herein, Mumbai followed the Chennai example to the hilt – stable leadership, a couple of high-impact players, and a consistent core of players. With Sharma as captain, Malinga and Pollard providing the impact, Mumbai allowed youngsters – Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik and Krunal Pandya, and Nitish Rana – to make their marks and prosper.

“Individual brilliance can win you a few games but team unity and team work are both required to win. These are factors which I believe are very critical to winning a championship like this,” said Sharma, after Mumbai stole a jailbreak IPL-winning one-run victory over Rising Pune Supergiant in the final.

It reveals the flavour – and fervour – of the Mumbai camp this season. Through his travails on the international scene, Sharma is now ranked as a seasoned pro. It has fashioned this admirable quality in him to step back in a moment of heightened glory, and shine the spotlight bright on those aforementioned names.

Rana (333 runs in 13 matches inclusive of three half-centuries at a strike-rate of 126.13) got the impact runs, the Pandya brothers were electric with both bat and ball (243 runs and 10 wickets in 13 matches for Krunal; 250 runs and six wickets in 17 matches for Hardik), and in the years to come, Bumrah (20 wickets in 16 matches at an economy rate of 7.35) will ably – and easily – replace Malinga.

Two matches stand out herein – first, against Delhi Daredevils at the Wankhede (on April 22), when they defended a sub-par total of 142, and the second against Gujarat Lions in Rajkot (on April 29), when they clawed back to tie the game and won the Super Over. The former was a turning point for it allowed this Mumbai side to realise its dominant nature. The latter was simply an affirmation of their superiority this season.

Mumbai’s prowess, thus, was an amalgamation of their stable structure and youth, churning out a consistent outcome week after week. So much so, they came back from the brink, turned around the season, and won it in electric style, one that few thought imaginable after putting out a target of only 130 in the final.

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Gambhir, Stokes and Raina - IPL 2017 best XI

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Gambhir and Stokes had outstanding seasons [Sportzpics]

With the 2017 Indian Premier League [IPL] ending on Sunday and Mumbai Indians emerging as champions, here, we pick the team of the season.

We have restricted the number of overseas players to four, as is the rule when it comes to the playing XIs in the tournament.

Do you agree with our choices? Let us know by commenting at the bottom of the page or via Twitter and Facebook.

DAVID WARNER

Well, being the Orange Cap holder, Warner obviously makes the team. This was the fourth successive season that the Sunrisers Hyderabad captain scored over 500 runs in an IPL season which shows his remarkable consistency.

This IPL campaign saw Warner scoring 641 runs at an incredible average of 58.27 and a strike-rate of 141.81. The highlight of the season for the Australian opener came against Kolkata Knight Riders when he scored 126 from just 59 deliveries.

David Warner.

David Warner.

HASHIM AMLA

The experienced South African batsman just about gets into the team ahead of Steve Smith, who also had a tremendous season, in one of the overseas spots.

In his second season for Kings XI Punjab, Amla was outstanding as he managed to notch up two centuries.

Although he missed a few matches at the end of the league stage due to international commitments, he scored 420 runs in the season at an average of 60 and a strike-rate of 145.83.

GAUTAM GAMBHIR (C)

Gambhir was the highest Indian run-scorer this season, with 498 runs at an average of 41.50 and a strike-rate of 128.02.

Gambhir not only had a brilliant season with the bat, he was also very impressive with his innovative captaincy. The move to open with Sunil Narine was a brave one that worked very well for a few matches.

Gautam Gambhir.

Gautam Gambhir.

SURESH RAINA

When it comes to the IPL, Raina is almost always among the top run-scorers in any season and it was no different this time around as he scored 442 runs at an average of 40.18 and a strike-rate of 143.97.

Raina was magnificent in the field once again as he took home the Catch of the Tournament award for the one-handed effort against Rising Pune Supergiant.

ROBIN UTHAPPA (WK)

Uthappa’s season ended on a poor note as he managed just four runs in his last four innings, but before that, he was in scintillating form with the bat.

Despite the blip at the end, he was among the top 10 run-scorers of the season, with 388 runs to his name. What was most impressive about Uthappa was the strike-rate (165.10) that he batted at.

Robin Uthappa.

Robin Uthappa.

BEN STOKES

The English all-rounder came into the tournament with a hefty price tag on his shoulders and he went about proving why he was worth all that money in fine fashion.

With the bat, Stokes scored 316 runs in 11 innings which included a match-winning century against Gujarat Lions. Add 12 wickets to that and it is no surprise at all that he was named as the Most Valuable Player in the tournament.

KRUNAL PANDYA

This was a tough choice to make as Axar Patel and Pawan Negi had very good seasons, but Krunal Pandya’s match-winning knocks in Qualifier 1 and the final sees him get this spot.

Krunal’s 47 in the final was so important to Mumbai’s win that he was named as the Man of the Match. In total, he notched up 243 runs with the bat and his bowling yielded 10 wickets while going at just 6.82 runs per over.

RASHID KHAN

This was another hard selection as Imran Tahir also had a sublime season, having taken 18 wickets in 12 matches over the course of the season.

Rashid, despite taking a wicket lesser and playing two more matches compared to Tahir, makes his way into the team because of his superb economy rate of just 6.62.

Rashid Khan.

Rashid Khan.

BHUVNESHWAR KUMAR

For the second straight year, Bhuvneshwar won the Purple Cap for being the leading wicket-taker in an IPL season.

26 wickets from 14 matches at an average of 14.19 and an economy rate of 7.05 are some phenomenal numbers, especially considering that he bowled mostly in the Powerplay and in the death overs.

Indian fans will be hoping that the 26-year-old can take his brilliant form into the ICC Champions Trophy.

JAYDEV UNADKAT

Unadkat was one of the main reasons for Pune’s exceptional form in the second half of the tournament which saw them reach the final.

With 24 wickets in just 12 matches in the season, Unadkat was Pune captain Steve Smith’s premier wicket-taking option with the ball.

The left-arm pacer produced a very good performance in the final as well, picking up two early wickets to put Pune on top, but they would fall short by just one run in the end.

Jaydev Unadkat.

Jaydev Unadkat.

JASPRIT BUMRAH

Bumrah was the best death-overs bowler in IPL 2017 with his yorkers and slower deliveries in the backend of the innings playing a pivotal role in Mumbai winning the IPL.

In the final, Bumrah got the important wicket of MS Dhoni which turned the match on its head as the former Indian captain is known to be one of the greatest finishers of all time.

In total, he took 20 wickets while conceding 7.35 runs per over which is a really good number when you consider how much he bowled in the death overs.

STEVE SMITH (12th MAN)

Smith brought his rich vein of form from international cricket into the IPL as he ended the tournament as the fourth highest run-scorer (second among overseas batsmen).

He scored 472 runs at an average of 39.33, but his strike-rate of 121.96 sees him miss out on making it into the XI. In the final, he almost guided Pune to their first IPL title before holing out to Ambati Rayudu on the off-side boundary in the final over of the game.

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Five things we learned from IPL 2017

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While Mumbai Indians beat Rising Pune Supergiant in the IPL 2017 Final on Sunday, the tournament was yet another successful one.

Here are five things we learned from the 10th Indian Premier League:

BIG BUY STOKES A ‘PERFECT FIT’

Ben Stokes finally repaid the $2.16 million worth of faith Rising Pune Supergiant placed in him. The Englishman was the most expensive foreigner ever signed for the IPL and the best paid player this season. He was key in Pune’s impressive campaign to reach the knockout phase.

After some poor early performances the Stokes’ deal was questioned, but the 25-year-old eventually hit 316 runs in 12 matches, with a high of 103 not out.

He also took 12 wickets to bust the big buy, big waste tag. Pune skipper Steve Smith heaped praise on Stokes, terming him a “perfect fit” for the team.

Ben Stokes.

Ben Stokes.

FOREIGN INTEREST ON THE RISE

Big guns like Chris Gayle and David Warner have always raised the IPL entertainment quotient but the influx of England players this year made it even more cosmopolitan.

IPL teams welcomed them with open arms at the February auctions and the eight-strong English contingent was double the number last season. Stokes, Eoin Morgan (Kings XI Punjab), Chris Woakes (Kolkata Knight Riders) and Jos Buttler (Mumbai Indians) were important performers for their teams.

The season also saw the first Afghan players signed up, with Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi going to Sunrisers Hyderabad. “The participation of players from around the world makes it the biggest draw,” said IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla.

Rashid Khan

Rashid Khan.

IPL PICKS UP THE PACE

Fast bowlers are back. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Jaydev Unadkat (Rising Pune Supergiant) and Jasprit Bumrah (Mumbai Indians) made up the top three in the IPL bowlers rankings and the impact of seamers was evident this season.

While Kumar took 26 scalps to get the purple cap for highest wicket taker in season 10, Unadkat (24 wickets) was instrumental in Pune’s success. Mumbai also rode on Mitchell McClenaghan’s incisive bowling in the first six overs and fellow pacemen Bumrah and Mitchell Johnson’s ability to choke the opposition in the dying overs.

Mitchell McClenaghan

Mitchell McClenaghan.

MATCH FIXING GHOST RETURNS

Just when the match-fixing spectre seemed to have disappeared from the world’s most lucrative cricket league, a betting ring was busted after a Gujarat Lions-Dehli Daredevils game. Three suspected bookies were arrested at the hotel used by the teams in Kanpur.

While the Indian board boasted of their anti-corruption team working overtime to keep the league clean, the presence of fixers in the hotel raised eyebrows.

A spot-fixing scandal in 2013 led to the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals being suspended in 2015 for two seasons.

Match fixing ghosts returned as bookies were arrested.

Match fixing ghosts returned as bookies were arrested.

IPL RAIN RULES CAUSE A CLOUD

Debate erupted over the IPL’s rain rules after an eliminator between holders Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders ended at 1.27 am. Rain stopped play after the Sunrisers managed a modest 128-7 in 20 overs and Kolkata were then given a revised target of 48 in six overs.

Many believe the current Duckworth-Lewis method should not be used in the 20 over format as it gives an undue advantage to the team batting second — Kolkata won by seven wickets.

But the bone of contention remained the IPL ruling of not having a reserve day for play-offs except the final and thus allowing the match to stretch to get a result. Kolkata paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile said: “You can’t be playing cricket at 2 am”.

Covers being brought on during the Eliminator match between KKR and SRH.

Covers being brought on during the Eliminator match between KKR and SRH.

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