MI thrill with typical bouncebackability
During the first timeout of the Chennai Super Kings innings in the IPL final, Ricky Ponting led the entire support staff onto the field. Shane Bond, Robin Singh and Jonty Rhodes were in tow with the Mumbai Indians head coach as they strode purposefully onto the field. Only to pat the backs and joke around with Rohit Sharma and his men for they were doing nothing wrong.
This philosophy to bond together, keep a light head, have good game sense and adapt when necessary has been the hallmark of Mumbai's success this season. Both Ponting and Rohit deserve credit for creating an atmosphere where every player buys into the winning mentality and plays hard to come out on top at all cost.
Mumbai, we could say, have patented bounceabackability. They lost their first four matches, and with only only one win in six had to win each of their last eight matches to make the play-offs.
Jokes about their coaching staff being a stronger outfit only became louder In the first half of the tournament. But as Kieron Pollard pointed out franchise sport is a maze: it takes time to find the right way out.
For Ponting, the challenge was understanding his soldiers and finding the right way to communicate his message. Luckily, he already had his captain's trust and respect: Rohit has acknowledged Ponting's inputs, as consultant, in Mumbai winning the Champions League Twenty20 in 2013.
And at the outset of the 2015 triumph, Ponting had made it clear that he wanted to run the team. Although he did not mind the presence of former Indian greats Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble as mentors, he did not want any interference. Ponting's intention was not to confuse the players with too many voices.
In the second half of the tournament, at every training huddle, players were told treat each match as a final. That resonated with Mumbai. Lasith Malinga found his pace and his yorkers. Pollard found a bigger role than just being a murderous finisher and also helped guide the young and raw Hardik Pandya. Harbhajan Singh found his flight and drift. He helped inexperienced left-arm spinner J Suchith beat his own nerves and opposition batsmen.
Emotionally lost at the beginning, Rohit found his voice to bolster his men. He was seen as a dejected figure, sitting away from the team at times. On Sunday though, as Vinay Kumar ran in to bowl the last ball of the IPL, Rohit started his own victory run. Leaping up ecstatically and pumping his fists in glory.
"Every time you go into the game and come out of it, you've got to think how you can improve at least by 10%." Rohit Sharma said that after Mumbai stomped on David Warner's Sunrisers Hyderabad with a nine-wicket victory with six overs to spare. It was the final league match of the tournament and the stakes could not have been higher: if Mumbai had lost they "would go home", as Rohit described it. Instead the secured the second spot on the table with attacking bowling followed by a 106-run opening stand between Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel that sealed the result.
Four defeats on the trot in the first four matches.
Top of the class
If it had been mentioned that Lendl Simmons would end up as Mumbai's best batsman at the start of the tournament, you would roll your eyes. More than the runs, he kept a cool head and helped raise a platform at the top of the order consistently. His alliance with Parthiv Patel yielded 619 runs, the second-most by any pair in this IPL. Simmons' match-winning half-century in the final was his sixth 50-plus score in the season, the most by a Mumbai batsman across all IPLs.
The way Simmons constructed his innings showed he wanted to be a catalyst. Simmons' natural game is to be an aggressor, but this season he showed a calmness especially in the first six overs. His strike-rate in the Powerplay was 120.33, rising to 132.50 in the next nine overs and thereafter it soared to to 155.5.
R Vinay Kumar is not just a workhorse. He has a smart grasp of conditions and a good knowledge of the batsman's weak points. Those skills have helped his domestic side Karnataka complete the treble (winning Ranji Trophy, Irani Trophy and Vijay Hazare) for the last two years. Vinay brought his domestic form into the IPL last year when Kolkata Knight Riders won the tournament. But this season Vinay has been ineffective: he managed just seven wickets, the fewest for any bowler who has bowled at least 40 overs this IPL. His average of 52.57 is the second-worst in this bracket.
Tip for 2016
As amazing as the adrenaline-pumping, mad rush was in the back nine games, Mumbai will do better to establish a winning trend on the front nine going forward.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo