Of fairytales and slip-ups

While some of the fancied teams faltered, Mumbai offered a tale of grit
Last Updated 25 May 2015, 19:44 IST

Mumbai Indians’ remarkable comeback, veteran paceman Ashish Nehra’s inspiring bowling, young batsman Shreyas Iyer’s show of his precocious talent, AB de Villiers’ bottomless repertoire of strokes and Andre Russell’s power-packed batting performances were some of the several highlights of IPL-8, which was one of the most, if not the most, keenly contested tournaments ever.

Having stayed at the bottom of the heap for the first two weeks of the event, where they had a solitary win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore from first six matches, Mumbai stitched together nine wins from their next 10 matches to script an extraordinary turnaround en route their second Indian Premier League title at the Eden Gardens on Sunday.

Halfway through the season, Mumbai were the object of ridicule. With an array cricketing greats manning their backroom, people began to wonder if it was a case of ‘too many cooks spoiling the broth.’ While they had head coach in Ricky Ponting, bowling coach in Shane Bond, fielding coach in Jonty Rhodes and assistant coach in Robin Singh in the dugout, legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and John Wright worked in various capacities though not always hands-on.

Ponting had a bitter-sweet experience when he was first bought by Mumbai for the 2013 edition as a player and was named the skipper. Six matches into the season, he had been dropped never to play again. His replacement, Rohit Sharma, led Mumbai to maiden IPL title the same season and Ponting retired from all types of cricket soon after. Returning as the head coach, Ponting has been hailed by everyone as the man behind Mumbai’s success and which in a way is his redemption.    

There was, however, no salvation for the Chennai Super Kings who had lost to the same opponents at the same venue two seasons ago. While Super Kings’ defeat to Mumbai in 2013 came as a surprise, there were no such feelings on Sunday when Rohit led his team to a commanding victory. Though Super Kings topped the league phase with 18 points, they never appeared unbeatable. Their top-order appeared vulnerable through the season and became even more brittle once Brendon McCullum left them. That they still made the final was largely because they had a man answering to the name of Dhoni whose tactics and dour batting carried them past the Royal Challengers in the second qualifier.  

The Royal Challengers once again failed to go the distance and will have to live with the tag of ‘under-performers’. Virat Kohli’s side stuttered, surged and then scraped into play-offs, and throughout their campaign they proved they are the most entertaining team in the IPL. Chris Gayle’s merciless pounding against Kings XI Punjab, de Villiers’ scintillating century against Mumbai and Gayle and Kohli’s breath-taking assault on Hyderabad bowlers while chasing 83 off five overs left the fans spellbound. They might feel a bit undone by the rain that was their constant companion and even washed out two of their matches, but that’s hardly any consolation for them.

There was no fairy-tale end to Rajasthan Royals’ campaign either. They had a robust start, winning five off their first six matches but appeared worn out towards the business end. Barring Ajinkya Rahane, Royals found their players lacking in consistency. Their foreign contingent was a big let-down and failed collectively but making the play-offs was an improvement in itself. There was no such luck for defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders despite everything going for them -- an intense skipper, a solid and deep batting line-up and a versatile attack. They were peaking up nicely when inertia hit them and remained stuck on 15 points to make an early exit.

Sunrisers Hyderabad too had to settle for a place in the bottom half. Their newly-installed skipper David Warner led from the front to win the Orange Cap for the leading run-maker (562) and was ably supported by Shikhar Dhawan at the top but had little else going his way so far as the batting was concerned. Nothing, however, went right for the Kings XI Punjab who brought up the rear. From being the losing finalists in the previous edition to finishing at the bottom, it was an unmitigated disaster for the George Bailey-led side. Daredevils escaped ignominy of finishing last and while a seventh place finish with 11 points wasn’t the performance they were hoping for, it’s a massive progress from last year’s show.

(Published 25 May 2015, 19:44 IST)

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