The Mumbai Indians have clearly mistaken the ongoing Indian Premier League for an amusement park. It's as if they are on a roller coaster ride with the scariest of twists and turns. One moment they produce a performance that makes their fans lose all faith in them; the very next minute, they produce a miraculous turnaround that raises eyebrows of everyone around. In their last four matches, the defending champions have won and lost alternatively, each one with huge margins, but remain firmly in the race for the knock-out stages.
Sunday's match against the Delhi Daredevils was another do-or-die situation for them and the comprehensive win is symbolic of the true potential of Rohit Sharma's team, and the reason why it was crowned champions in the first place. The manner in which they minced Delhi — posting a 200-plus total on the board before dismissing their opponents 80 runs short — has helped send a reminder to the other sides about the havoc MI could unleash when they click as a unit.
The win over Delhi was significant for Mumbai in many ways. Apart from keeping the two-time IPL winners afloat, it also helped boost their net run-rate to some extent, neutralising the 85-run hammering that they had received at the same venue a couple of fixtures ago. After a couple of defeats, Mumbai finally seem to have settled in at their adopted home venue at Vizag.
The match saw the return of Martin Guptill at the top of their batting order, and the New Zealand opener may have very well sealed his place at Parthiv Patel's expense. However, the most significant thing was Krunal Pandya's scintillating display with the bat. With his 37-ball-86, Krunal has truly justified his "find of the tournament" tag. Here are the three deciding factors that led to Mumbai's much-needed, if somewhat one-sided victory:
Krunal Pandya's blazing all-round display
If Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah were the hidden gems discovered by Mumbai Indians last year, his brother Krunal has made this tournament his own. Even in previous games, he did deliver consistent performances. His primary role with the bat was to get quick runs and ease the pressure on the batting order, helping the likes of Rohit Sharma score runs at a steady pace, a responsibility that he carried out successfully on more occasions than one. With the ball, Krunal turned out to be a handy left-arm spinner, keeping the scoring under check for the most part, and getting the odd wicket every now and then.
However, on Sunday, he performed way beyond everyone's expectations, and has set a new benchmark for himself. Delhi's spin duo of Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir, who had used their wrong 'uns to lethal effect so far in the tournament, would have been playing on the minds of the Mumbai players during their team meetings. The team would have required at least one player to neutralise them, while the others went after the seamers. Normally, one would have expected Rohit to perform in that role, given that he is a decent player of the turning ball.
However, Krunal rose to the occasion on Sunday, and took on the leg-spinners with a ferocity that would have dented their confidence for the rest of the tournament. Of Krunal's 86 runs, 69 were scored off the spinners, that too from just 19 deliveries, the result of reading the googlies and predicting the turn with genius-like precision.
While Rohit and Guptill provided impetus at the top of the order, and Ambati Rayudu and Jos Buttler helped finish things off in style, Krunal's maiden IPL fifty was the single biggest reason behind his team becoming the only side other than Royal Challengers Bangalore to post a 200-plus total in this tournament.
Of course, that wasn't the end of his contribution. He went on to get the key wicket of Delhi's wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock, although the latter may have been a victim of bad umpiring for a second consecutive time. It was then fitting for Krunal to be part of the winning moment, taking the final Delhi wicket to fall, that of skipper Zaheer Khan.
The image of Krunal hugging brother Hardik after his innings, and later dedicating his man-of-the-match award to him has also left a great impression on the minds of fans. There is little stopping Krunal from breaking into the ranks of the Indian team after this.
Martin Guptill finally proves his mettle
For a large part of the tournament, Mumbai's failures could largely be blamed on the failed starts that the team got off to. After the early exit of Lendl Simmons, Rohit continued persisting with Parthiv Patel at the start of the innings, a pair that did not click in any of the games save one. Parthiv scored an impressive 81 against Kings XI Punjab in his only positive performance of the IPL, and then made way for Unmukt Chand, who also could not settle alongside Rohit.
Guptill, though, seemed to have been ignored for good after being dismissed for two against Sunrisers Hyderabad. He finally earned a much-awaited recall after Rohit was left with virtually no other options.
The New Zealand opener has powered his national team to many a powerful start in the past, especially in ODIs, and he made full use of the opportunity provided to him on Sunday. Mumbai needed a good start if they were to post a winning total against Delhi, and skipper Rohit fell for 31 after having launched the offensive early in the innings. Guptill then took over, scoring boundaries at regular intervals to keep the scoreboard ticking, and setting up the platform for Krunal to go on a full blast later. Although he was dismissed just two runs short of a well-deserved 50, the job was already done.
With this innings, Guptill has served the team a reminder of what they have missed out on by benching him for a large part of the tournament. It still remains to be seen if Corey Anderson gives them a similar tap on the head should he get picked in the matches to come.
Clinical Bumrah seals the deal
While the battle was half won with a humongous score on the board, it required some disciplined bowling by the Mumbai attack to restrict the Delhi, which had chased down a 192-run target against RCB. While everyone in the bowling unit chipped in with their vital contributions, Bumrah was the standout performer with superb figures of 3/13 from four overs, a rare commodity for the format that is considered to be a bowler's demise.
Though Vinay Kumar, Harbhajan Singh and Krunal got the early wickets, it was Bumrah's dismissals of the reliable middle-order duo of JP Duminy and Rishabh Pant that sealed the deal for Mumbai. Just when the two had started going, in came Bumrah with a clever mix of variations, hurling a short one on middle for Duminy to top-edge it to the wicket-keeper, before firing a quicker, fuller delivery outside off that got Pant's inside edge. At 96 for six, it was all but over for Delhi. Getting Mishra's wicket in his next over was only a bonus for him thereafter, as he proved to be a gem yet again.
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Updated Date: May 16, 2016 17:17:57 IST