Mumbai Indians head coach Mahela Jayawardene revelled in the fact that the three-time champions have enjoyed a season where several players – and not just a core group of 2 or 3 – have stood up and made the different when the situation has demanded it. The Rohit Sharma-led side has had the joint-most number of Man of Match award recipients (seven) along with Delhi Capitals, who also enjoyed the luxury of possessing many game-changers in their squad – which reflected in their jump in position from eighth in 2018 to third this year.To add to this, MI’s leading run-scorer this season – Quinton de Kock with 500 runs – has been quietly influential without having a single Man of the Man award to show for.
The most recent example for Mumbai came in the first qualifier, where Suryakumar Yadav – whose form, by his 2018 standards, had flatlined this year. He came to the fore when Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock fell early in a high stakes chase and finished with an unbeaten 71 – hailed as his best performance for the franchise.
Before him, MI have had six different match winners, including the young Alzarri Joseph, who arrived as Adam Milne’s replacement and bagged the best-ever IPL bowling figures on his debut.Jayawardene revealed that the team spoke about the need to have players take up the responsibility of winning matches for the side and thereby shouldering the burden that’s generally carried by just the couple of stalwarts in the team. The former Sri Lankan skipper also believed that having unexpected heroes also enhanced your chances of winning more matches, even from unlikely scenarios. Joseph’s exploits in Hyderabad was one such event which allowed Mumbai Indians to defend a paltry 136.“That’s something we spoke about at the beginning of the season as well. It takes pressure off key players as well – otherwise, they are going to a game under pressure. Whereas when you have six-seven guys to win a battle for you out there, it gives you opportunities to win matches,” Jayawardene said.The head coach also talked up the need to have such a combination, in order to counter the challenges that difference conditions throw at you. Teams have often found it easy to build their sides based on the characteristics of the home pitches, but the difference maker has been these team’s ability or inability to adapt away from home.“That’s something we realised you require in such a tournament. And playing home and away as well – different conditions suits different players.”The presence of seven different table-turners has also helped Mumbai Indians befuddle oppositions on the strategy table, as that ensures there isn’t a strict pattern in place, which can be then worked around. Teams like Sunrisers and Kings XI suffered in this aspect because oppositions knew they could sneak up on them belatedly even from the toughest of situations if they got their top two – David Warner and Jonny Bairstow for SRH and Chris Gayle and KL Rahul for KXIP – out early. Both of these undercooked middle-orders have suffered in the face of such situations,.