It ended almost as soon as it began.
Trent Boult struck with his first ball to send back Marcus Stoinis with the first ball of the Indian Premier League final in Dubai and then, he sent Ajinkya Rahane back in his second over.
And soon, while Jasprit Bumrah had bowled a very good second over, skipper Rohit Sharma threw to the ball to off-spinner Jayant Yadav. It was a brilliant move — a match-changing one — given the form Shikhar Dhawan had been in. It was more than just a change of pace. Rohit knew that it would tempt Dhawan and he trusted Jayant to make the chance count. It worked. Dhawan was bowled by one that drifted in and straightened off the pitch, and DC were reduced to 22/3 after 3.3 overs.
This was a captain showing the difference a good captain can make. This was a team showing just how ruthless it could be. This was the difference between champions and challengers.
Delhi looked a little edgy and the three early wickets pushed them into a corner. They fought back, creditably, through Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant. But Mumbai’s bowlers came to the party in the death overs — conceding just 31 runs in the last 5 overs and claiming three wickets too.
DC finished with 156/7 — well short of what they would have wanted but given the strength of their bowling line-up (Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Ravichandra Ashwin, Axar Patel, Praveen Dubey and Marcus Stoinis), one they would have hoped to make a match out of.
But you know what they say about hope being a dangerous thing, for when it is crushed there is no coming back from it.
MI’s openers, Quinton de Kock and Rohit came out and smashed 45 in four overs before the South African was dismissed. But in a matter of four overs, they burst DC’s balloon and then cruised to victory.
You win both powerplays in a T20 match, you invariably win the match. Mumbai did not just win those phases, they blew Delhi away.
A lot has been said and written about how this was arguably the most competitive of all IPL seasons. But despite the mighty battle for playoff-places, MI were always way ahead of the chasing pack… they were always the team to beat.
And in the final, they once again proved that – to paraphrase Michael Jordan – while individual talent can win the odd match, to win championships requires teamwork — a quality that they have painstakingly nurtured over the years.
Not the smoothest of seasons
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. It started with a customary opening day defeat against arch-rivals. Rohit injured his hamstring, Hardik Pandya couldn’t bowl, Saurabh Tiwary (their first choice initially) got injured, Bumrah started cold. But the champions took it all in their stride.
MI used just 15 players all season — a testament to how well laid out their plans were. The big players were identified and then, as Rohit Sharma said in the post-match chat, his job was to give them confidence.
Teams finishing top of points table winning IPL
2008: Rajasthan Royals
2017: Mumbai Indians
2019: Mumbai Indians
2020: Mumbai Indians
MI trust themselves and believe they can win no matter what. Throughout the season, that is the quality that stood out the most. The unerring, unflinching belief that they could overcome anything that was thrown their way.
CSK — the other big IPL team — took their foot off the pedal, trusted their method too much; trusted their veterans too much. MI kept working in the off-season to scout new talent and made the right trades. And that is what makes them so dangerous — the fact that they aren’t resting on their laurels and are still trying to get better each time they step onto the field.
At their most dominant
No player from Mumbai won the purple cap or the orange cap or the MVP award. But that was only because so many players did well for them. They shared the spoils and won the trophy.
MI’s superpower was their ability in inspiring players to do the right thing without even thinking about individual glory. For example, the manner in which Suryakumar Yadav sacrificed his wicket for Rohit in the final.
The MI skipper got the call wrong but Suryakumar realised that the well-set Rohit needed to stay in the middle and ran to the other side despite having no chance of getting there. This selfless act summed up what Mumbai Indians were about all season long.
They were in it for the trophy and that is all they cared about. No team has dominated the opposition in the way MI has this season and if the other teams need a template of how to go about winning titles, the Mumbai Indians model is there for all to see and, even shamelessly copy.
The model isn’t as extreme as the Chennai Suoer Kings model. Rather, it just shows that if you keep at it long enough, gather all the right pieces, strategise well and execute those plans, success will come to you.
Perhaps, in the end, the greatest compliment one can pay to the Mumbai Indians is that they made it look easy. Like Mahela Jayawardene said with a smile at the end, he wished it would be easy to play with the pressure of being favourites. It may not have always been so but they sure made it feel that way and that is what imparts a special touch to this triumph.