Malinga-less Mumbai patchy despite strong line-up
Where they finished
Fifth, with seven wins and as many defeats
How they got there
Mumbai Indians entered the tournament as defending champions and one of the favourites to win the title. They had retained the core of their title-winning side from the previous season - including Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh and Mitchell McClenaghan - while adding Jos Buttler, Tim Southee and Krunal Pandya to their ranks. It looked a well-balanced side, packed with batting firepower, boasting pace and spin resources, and carrying a lot of good memories and experiences from seasons past. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot, actually. The side was struck by injury blows early in the season. Lendl Simmons played only the opening match before being ruled out for the rest of the season by a back injury. Lasith Malinga, Mumbai's star pacer and the highest wicket-taker in IPL history, was ruled out without playing a match due to continuing struggles with his left knee. An opening loss to debutants Rising Pune Supergiants kicked off another slow start to a season as Mumbai lost four of their first six matches.
Three wins on the bounce left Mumbai decently placed by the end of April, rekindling hopes that they would once again shrug off early stutters and peak at the right time. It was not to be. The shift to Visakhapatnam as their home venue in May did not work well for them. The batting unit struggled to adapt to the stickier surfaces and turned in two limp performances that led to two heavy defeats. That punctured Mumbai's momentum at just the wrong time.
Mumbai lost their last league match to close out a patchy, stop-start season that never really kicked into top gear. They certainly had their moments and only narrowly missed out on a berth in the playoffs on the last day of the league stage.
With promising India allrounder Hardik Pandya already in the squad, Mumbai paid INR 2 crore in this year's auction to recruit his brother Krunal. And what a buy it was. Krunal impressed from the outset with his sparkling strokeplay, his effective left-arm bowling and his energy in the field. He was the centre of many of the best moments in Mumbai's campaign. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Wankhede Stadium, Krunal dismissed Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the same over to help limit the target to 171, which Mumbai chased down comfortably. In a crunch match against Delhi Daredevils, Krunal's 37-ball 86 and two wickets were instrumental in Mumbai's big win. Mumbai seem to have unearthed an exciting young allrounder who could serve them well in seasons to come.
Mumbai's principal shortcoming this season was their opening partnership. While Rohit did well - scoring 484 runs at 48.40 while opening - he did not find a reliable partner at the top. Parthiv Patel played 10 matches but managed just one innings of note - a 58-ball 81 against Kings XI Punjab - and, on that occasion, Rohit bagged a second-ball duck. Martin Guptill, drafted in as Simmons' replacement, played just three matches and registered one decent knock. The upshot was a string of poor starts, which often put the middle order under pressure.
- Mumbai's average opening partnership of 16.07 was the worst among all teams this IPL. They had just one half-century stand
- Mumbai lost 25 wickets in the Powerplays - the highest among all teams. Their Powerplay run rate of 7.14 was better than only Daredevils'
- When bowling in the closing overs (overs 16-20), Mumbai conceded a run rate of 9.87, joint third-best in the tournament
Mumbai's penultimate league match, against Daredevils in Visakhapatnam, was a crucial encounter as defeat would have all but ended their playoff chances. They had underperformed in their two previous "home" matches at the venue. This time, they were dominant from the start. Rohit and Guptill put on 46 - Mumbai's second-best opening stand of the season - before Krunal made a blistering 86 that propelled the side to 206. This was followed by a strong bowling performance, headlined by Jasprit Bumrah and Krunal, who took 5 for 28 between them. The 80-run win was not only a statement of intent, but also a timely boost to their net run rate.
Mumbai's first match in Visakhapatnam was an unmitigated disaster. Poor, indisciplined bowling enabled Sunrisers Hyderabad to score 177 on a sticky wicket where batting was not straightforward. Then the chase went horribly wrong as Mumbai lost half their side for 30. Only some late resistance from Harbhajan helped them limp to a still-embarrassing 92 all out.
What they need most next season
Jos Buttler scored 255 runs this season; Kieron Pollard scored 207. Both averaged in the 20s and had strike-rates around 140. Both chipped in with a few bright cameos, in chases and when batting first. Overall, their returns this season were commendable, but not commanding. If these two overseas stars could find another gear and become regular match-winners next season, it could provide Mumbai with the inspiration and intensity that they mostly lacked this time around.
Sirish Raghavan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo