Free-spenders can't buy consistency
Where they finished
Fourth. A disappointment as it's a lower finish than last year despite the vast amounts spent on refurbishing the squad, including getting three solid Indian IPL performers to plug perceived weaknesses.
Once again Lasith Malinga was a stand-out performer, particularly in the first half of the season. His form tailed off a touch towards the end of the campaign and he finished with his worst IPL performance of 2012, leaking 41 as MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo went on the rampage in Bangalore. Still, he was indisputably their go-to bowler, and 22 wickets at an economy of 6.30 show why. The cocktail of yorkers, bouncers and slower balls continued to bamboozle batsmen, and underscored why he remains among the finest Twenty20 bowlers around.
Not too many candidates for this category, as Mumbai Indians' cheaper acquisitions in the auction didn't get too many games. Perhaps Dwayne Smith, who joined a month into the tournament in place of the injured Mitchell Johnson, fits the bill. He made a dramatic entry, thumping Ben Hilfenhaus for six, four and four off the last three balls of the match to snatch victory over Chennai Super Kings. There was also an unbroken 163-run stand with Sachin Tendulkar, against Rajasthan Royals, in his first innings as an opener.
Dinesh Karthik was brought in from Kings XI Punjab for a reported $2.35m and though he gave Mumbai Indians the solidity they lacked last season behind the stumps, he failed to put in any match-turning performances with the bat. Given plenty of chances at No. 4, Karthik provided neither the stability when the top order failed nor the power-hitting towards the end of the innings. One of only four Mumbai Indians players to take part in every game of the campaign, he finished with a disappointing 238 runs with a strike rate of 111.73.
The opening match of the season featured the two pre-tournament favourites and was a game Mumbai Indians completely dominated: Super Kings' intimidating batting line-up was dismantled for 112 before South African Richard Levi's quick half-century on IPL debut completed the demolition. Another highlight was the victory at Eden Gardens that snapped Kolkata Knight Riders seven-game unbeaten run, with Rohit Sharma providing a reminder of his talent with a silken century. Their tenacious defence of 120 against Pune Warriors underlined their never-say-die spirit in a season where they won six matches in the final over.
Undoubtedly, the surrender at home to Delhi Daredevils, when they capsized to the lowest total of the season. They were thrashed in a couple of other matches as well, but there's a difference to being blown away by an assault from the likes of Chris Gayle or MS Dhoni, to the defeat against Daredevils. The game began with Davy Jacobs' 10-ball duck, a leading contender for worst innings of the tournament, and hardly improved. At 44 for 6, there were in line for the unwanted record of being bowled out for the smallest total in IPL history.
Every year Mumbai Indians seem to fortify their squad, but every season they have ended up short. The arrival of Karthik, RP Singh and Pragyan Ojha seemingly provided them with the strongest Indian contingent of any side in the tournament, but that was offset by mediocre seasons for two of their retained players, Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh.
Finding a destructive opening partner for the staid Tendulkar (by Twenty20 standards) proved vexing, as the South Africans Levi and Jacobs failed, as did Australia's Aiden Blizzard and Herschelle Gibbs was injured for much of the tournament. Mumbai Indians ended up trying eight different combinations, with only the James Franklin-Tendulkar combination getting more than three matches together.
The tinkering continued lower down the order as Mumbai Indians struggled to find four in-form overseas players. Several of them made a splash in their first game before fading away - Levi, Robin Peterson, Gibbs and even Smith till he was made to open. A settled combination was elusive, and Mumbai Indians tried as many as 24 players in all, the most by a franchise this season along with Deccan Chargers. In contrast, other successful teams used far fewer players: Kolkata Knight Riders (18) and Chennai (17).
The team did well in the league stages with plenty of back-from-the-dead wins but there weren't enough dominating performances by either the team or the individuals - only Rohit Sharma made it to the top 15 run-getters of the season and Lasith Malinga to the 15 most economical bowlers (min 20 overs).
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo