Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma has a simple formula for the team’s domination of the Indian Premier League: “Sheer brilliance”.
It is difficult to argue with his claim after the Indians crushed Delhi Capitals by five wickets in Dubai on Tuesday to take their fifth title and cement their place as the IPL’s most successful side.
Some doubted Mumbai as they went into the tournament, moved to empty stadiums in the United Arab Emirates because of the coronavirus pandemic. Mumbai had never won back-to-back titles and never triumphed in an even year. “Superstitions,” said coach Mahela Jayawardene.
And between the hard-hitting runs of Sharma and fellow opener Quinton de Kock and the devastating fast bowling of Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah, Mumbai swept aside everything in their path in 2020.
“It’s not rocket science, we have worked really hard for this balance, these players,” according to Sharma. “It was just sheer brilliance from each individual, putting their hand up at different stages. The balance and the strength of this team lies in individual belief.”
“We said at the start we want to make winning a habit, and you couldn’t have asked any more from the guys,” said Sharma.
Bankrolled by Nita Ambani — wife of Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani — Mumbai pick and choose their players carefully and make sure they are cosseted once accepted into the fold.
The main tactic has been to steamroller opponents from the start, with the bat or ball. “Big-hitting has been in Mumbai Indians’ DNA for a long time,” said coach Mahela Jayawardene.
“I’ve been here 11 years, fifth trophy,” said veteran West Indies player Kieron Pollard, who led the side when Sharma was injured.
“No one sees the planning and training, it’s pressure playing for a franchise like this. The amount of trophies, the amount of talent that’s there, you can say Mumbai Indians is the best T20 team going around.”
Mumbai, who won the finals in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019, stormed into this season’s final by finishing top of the league stage. They beat Delhi four times over the season.
Boult set up victory in the final with three wickets including one strike off the first ball of the match and a quick follow-up in his second over. Sharma hit 68 in his team’s comfortable run chase of 157, reached with eight balls to spare.
Mumbai’s back-to-back titles have left their nearest rivals, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings, floundering. Three-time winners Chennai failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time.
Sharma, 33, who has now been captain for seven years, missed a few games with a hamstring injury but the final was his 200th IPL appearance and the winning formula is unlikely to change. The team has always been full of legends with Sachin Tendulkar their founder captain but it was under Sharma that Mumbai found their winning touch.
Bumrah and Boult, who moved from Delhi Capitals this year, shared 52 wickets over the season and finished second and third in the bowlers’ rankings behind Delhi’s Kagiso Rabada with 30 scalps.
Up and coming players are brought in and supported. Ishan Kishan, their 22-year-old batsman, played a key part in the final and ended the season with 516 runs including four fifties.
South African wicketkeeper-batsman de Kock also played a key part in Mumbai’s two successive titles with 503 runs this year alone and some brave catches and takes behind the stumps.
“I think the guys really did hard work to make sure we can hold on to the title two years in a row,” said the South African.