Mumbai Indians head coach Ricky Ponting has hailed the character and resolve of his team, after they turned around the disastrous start to the season - four straight losses - by winning five games in a row. Their latest victory was Chennai Super Kings' first defeat at home in 2015, and came despite needing 30 off the last two overs.
"It has been a great turnaround but it has nothing to do with me, full credit should be given to the players. We have worked really hard from the first game but things didn't quite go to plan," Ponting told iplt20.com. "We knew that if we can string a couple of wins together, we will be able to come back strong.
"In the first four games we actually played some reasonable cricket, but we lost some important moments which cost us. I think we have started to play more like a team now."
Mumbai had a similar start to the 2014 season as well, losing their first five matches, but came back to win seven of their last nine games to qualify for the playoffs.
One of the reasons for Mumbai's recent success has been the consistency of their opening partnership between Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel. Stands of 84, 1, 111, 43, 42, 35 and 47 in their last seven games have helped Mumbai start well.
"The opening partnership was the one area where we tried different things in the first three games to find the right combination," Ponting said. "Barring the game against Delhi Daredevils, our starts with the bat have been particularly good and we need to build that platform for the likes of Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard to come and finish things off well. Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel have done that. Parthiv's form in particular throughout this tournament has been very good. He hasn't been getting big scores but he has got us to a good start in every game."
With Lasith Malinga missing for the match in Chennai, the other bowlers stepped up to keep Super Kings to 158 after Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith were involved in a 44-run opening partnership in 29 balls.
"I think Mitchell McClenaghan has given us more wicket-taking firepower. Our spinners, J Suchith and Harbhajan Singh have been great," Ponting said. "This is a big win for the team. But as big as it is, we still have three more games coming up and we need to win them to give ourselves a chance to qualify for the playoffs. We cannot afford to get carried away but I am really proud of the way the guys have fared in the last five games."
Hardik Pandya scored a eight-ball 21, including three sixes off Pawan Negi in the penultimate over to help win the match for Mumbai. He also contributed in the field with three catches.
"I have actually got quite close to Pandya since I started in this job, he is fearless and has lots of very good skills," Ponting said. "We haven't seen his bowling much yet but it is particularly good. We saw some of his hitting prowess tonight and even in the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore where he took 16 in the end. He is going to be a very good cricketer going forward and is someone I am excited to continue to work with."