Mumbai Indians allrounder Kieron Pollard has said the major challenge in franchise cricket was for a disparate group of individuals, who come together only days before a tournament, to bond and perform as a unit as early as possible.
Mumbai started this IPL with five defeats in their first six matches, but a remarkable turnaround ensued where they won nine of their next ten games, including the first Qualifier against Chennai Super Kings to enter the final. Mumbai had made the playoffs after losing their first five matches in the 2014 season as well. Pollard said asking players from diverse places and different levels of cricketing experience to adapt to each other immediately was never an easy task.
"I don't think anything was lacking. This is franchise cricket. It is a group of guys coming together two or three days before a tournament," Pollard said after Mumbai made their third IPL final with a 25-run win against Super Kings. "Sometimes the team that adapts quickly builds momentum. We're not playing together as a team (for the rest of the year). New players come in every year. You have to give it time sometimes. Some teams click faster than some others."
Pollard said making the playoffs in such dramatic circumstances was amazing, and he would not mind that as long as Mumbai continued to make the final. "In the last two years, Mumbai have been unable to start well but we've been able to finish well. One thing we need to work on is trying to start the tournament with a higher number of wins. Having said that if every year we are in this position, and,play like this and end up in the final, then we'll take it every year."
Despite the disastrous beginning in which Mumbai lost their first four matches, the team never panicked and made wholesale changes. Although other factors affected the team's strategies - injuries ruled out Australian opener Aaron Finch and New Zealand allrounder Corey Anderson - Pollard said Mumbai coach Ricky Ponting kept the players on their toes.
"I was disappointed after our first four games, lots of people wrote us off. So, in itself, maybe it was a blessing in disguise for us. As Ricky has been emphasising, we haven't done much differently. All we have done is come out and try to play complete cricket.
"We look at it as different rounds in a boxing match. From the start of this month, when we had to win, we were taking it one round at a time. Getting that opportunity to finish second put us in a position where we had two games to get to the final. We spoke about continuing to be ruthless, and I think we played one of our most perfect games against Super Kings. There were a couple of dropped catches, there's always room for improvement, but having said that, coming out and winning here and going directly into the final from where we were is a marvellous achievement for us as a team."
For Pollard, this IPL carried a lot of importance because it was the first big tournament he was playing since he and fellow West Indies allrounder Dwayne Bravo were omitted controversially from the World Cup squad. Pollard's animated celebrations after his last over against Kolkata Knight Riders in the must-win match last week was an emotional outburst waiting to happen.
"It's about being consistent for me. Lots of people said lots of things. It acted as motivation. Before this tournament, a lot of people said, 'Pollard is this, Pollard is that, Pollard is done.' For me it's not about proving them wrong, because I know what I can do. Quietly, I have been able to be consistent for the team. When we needed to go for quick runs, I went. Once you play cricket with a clean heart and a clean mind, things follow you. I've been targeted, but I'm just staying quiet, trying to do my bit and hopefully at the end of the day it is enough for Mumbai to win the trophy."