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Rohit Sharma: 'We said at the start we want to make winning a habit'

"We were right on the money from ball one when we started; till today, we never looked back"

Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma has praised his team for making "winning a habit" with their record fifth IPL title. Sharma said that had been the message for the squad at the beginning of the season and he was "pretty happy" to see how the players executed their plans with "excellent" performances. Mumbai defended their 2019 title with a clinical performance through the season, and in the final, with a five-wicket thrashing of the Delhi Capitals.
"Pretty happy with how things went the entire season for us," Sharma said at the post-match presentation. "We said at the start we want to make winning a habit, and the guys were excellent through the tournament and we couldn't have asked anything more from each one of them. We were right on the money from ball one when we started; till today, we never looked back.
"A lot of credit goes to people behind the scenes as well; they often don't get noticed. Our work starts much, much earlier than the IPL starts. We try and analyse what went wrong the previous season, what we need to fill, which players can add value to the squad, things like that."
Sharma showered more praise on Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav - two of their three leading scorers this season along with Quinton de Kock - for being "absolutely brilliant". Kishan scored 516 runs with 30 sixes, the most in the tournament, while opening in Sharma's absence and at No. 4, whereas Suryakumar played a crucial role at No. 3 for his tally of 480 with four half-centuries with a strike rate of 145.
"They've been absolutely brilliant," Sharma said. "We make sure that we get the freedom because Ishan Kishan is somebody you can't cloud his judgement about what he wants to do on the field, you just want to let him loose. Surya has matured as a player over the years. You've seen some shots he's played through the tournament - unbelievable shots, he looked in good form and he continued. Unfortunately he got run-out today…The kind of form he was in, I should have sacrificed my wicket but he did it. I give him a lot of credit [for that], it's not easy to do that. Through the season it was a pleasure to watch him bat. Some of the shots he played the entire season I don't think anyone could play those shots. These two guys, you have to keep motivating them, give them confidence and they come out with performances like that."
Sharma also explained why they'd dropped their lead spinner Rahul Chahar for the final, after he had taken 15 wickets in as many games, for offspinner Jayant Yadav. Chahar had leaked 35 runs in two overs against the Capitals in the first Qualifier, and the move to replace him with Jayant worked - he removed the Capitals' leading scorer Shikhar Dhawan for 15, to reduce them to 22 for 3 in the fourth over.
Sharma said it was purely a tactical decision given the number of left-hand batsmen in the Capitals line-up, and as captain it was his responsibility to put his arm around Chahar to tell him as much.
"You've got to find the right balance where you stay calm [as a leader]," Sharma said of his role as captain. "I'm not someone who'll run with a stick behind someone. It's important to get the best out of them [and] the only way you can do it is by giving them confidence, making sure that they understand their role because in our squad if you look at the batting order between Hardik [Pandya], Krunal [Pandya] and Polly (Kieron Pollard), we've been rotating them through the season. So it was important for them to know about this and they've been doing it for a while now so they do understand that.
"In the bowling department as well we try and stick to what works for us. Today Rahul Chahar missed out, it was very unfortunate, but we tactically wanted Jayant to come in and give that extra cushion to us. Those are the things you've got to look at when you're playing a big game like that."