Match Analysis

The fitting end that Mumbai Indians' brilliance deserved

Anything less than a win would have been almost unfair to their excellence this season

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Unpopular opinion: the tightly packed points table and that photo-finish at the end of the league stage, which suggest this was the most closely contested IPL, it was all a lie. This was arguably the most one-sided IPL. No team came close to suggesting they could challenge the Mumbai Indians consistently. They were streets ahead of every other team on most meaningful metrics in the Twenty20 format. For example: they hit 137 sixes in the season, 34 more than the next team and more than twice the side with the fewest.
It all started with scouting and player development years ago, but Mumbai remain way ahead of the others in terms of the players they retain, the work they do at the auction, and the transfers bartered in the off season. And yet, T20 is a fickle format. Last year, after losing to Mumbai three matches in a row, the Chennai Super Kings took them to the last ball in the final. That even these players talk of things like the jinx of the even years, tells you how even these elite practitioners bow down to vagaries of the format. Especially in a sport that is so obsessed with finals that it is willing to discount sustained excellence in the league stages, even at a tournament as long as the IPL.
And so, it was important that Mumbai dominated for one more night at IPL 2020. Anything less would have been almost unfair to their excellence. It wouldn't be farfetched to say that Mumbai will beat any other side in this tournament seven times out of 10. However, when you have won three in a row against a particular opposition, especially given the fickleness of the format, you can be wary of having one off-night. But Mumbai were very much on at the final. And, as is often the case with them, it began well before the match. Rahul Chahar had been their preferred spinner for more than a year but they were happy to respect form and match-ups. Chahar's last 10 overs had gone at more than 10 an over, and Jayant Yadav was better suited to bowl to the left-hand batsmen that pepper the Delhi Capitals' line-up. And Jayant was ready even though this was only his second match of the tournament.
As the match started, Trent Boult summed up everything that is right with Mumbai. Boult is not someone whose T20 numbers you look at and say, "Wow, we want him". Mumbai, though, had a specific role in mind for him. The Capitals, who traded Boult to Mumbai, didn't even know what they were giving up. Perhaps because they were never in the position to exploit what Mumbai were after. Boult can struggle when you ask him to be a complete T20 bowler, which is what the Capitals wanted from him. Mumbai, on the other hand, said: swing the ball in the powerplay, and the others will take over after that.
Boult repaid the faith with excellent execution of that skill. And it is not just the swing. It is also the scrambled-seam ball that he and his New Zealand team-mate Tim Southee bowl, which almost nips the other way after pitching. With a mix of that, Boult picked up five Capitals wickets in the first overs of this tournament, including Marcus Stoinis first ball in the final. They were all different: swing, set-up and then nip away, then the short ball that nipped in and got big on Stoinis.
Arguably Mumbai did make a mistake in the final when they didn't go after Rishabh Pant as soon as he walked in. When it threatened to get away from them, though, they showed they had that extra layer: to be able to play effective defensive cricket. From 94 for 3 in 12 overs - with the set Pant and Shreyas Iyer's partnership reading 72 at that stage - the Capitals could manage just 62 in the last eight overs. It was an experienced side showing it knew when to go for the wicket and when to defend, and doing it efficiently.
However, it was perhaps the way the chase started that summed up Mumbai's dominance. Quinton de Kock has been no less a force than Boult, who ended up with the joint-highest powerplay wickets in a single IPL. Most runs in the powerplay, highest strike rate for a regular opener in the powerplay, most sixes in the powerplay... de Kock has done it all and he has done it selflessly. He knew there was no Orange Cap waiting for him given the way he played, but Mumbai are a side that recognise that this - all-out attack - is how you open in T20s. The way he took down Kagiso Rabada, the highest wicket-taker of the tournament, one final time provided the icing on the cake that the season has been for Mumbai.
Among the less than handful of batsmen who had a higher strike rate than de Kock in the powerplay this tournament was Suryakumar Yadav. And he underlined Mumbai's approach. No sighters, no blocking just after a big wicket, he just walked out and smacked a four and a six to tell Stoinis that he might have got a wicket but he had no business bowling in the powerplay. Not to this Mumbai side, at least.
There were many talented batsmen in this tournament, from Virat Kohli to Shubhman Gill to Shreyas Iyer, who didn't, or weren't able to, bat at the tempo that is needed in T20 cricket. Suryakumar and Ishan Kishan, though, showed one final time the joy of that free-flowing batting in the middle, a hallmark of Mumbai's cricket.
In part, they could do it because behind them were two of the most lethal hitters in cricket, and a dangerous floater. Pollard and the Pandya brothers and their special skills were not quite needed on the night of the final, though.
And so Mumbai ended the tournament with just three defeats in regulation time, the joint-lowest in an IPL. They didn't lose a single game outright when chasing. Yet, so good were they at defending that they forced their final opposition into making the lower-percentage call at the toss.
The one-sided result might feel anti-climactic to some, but it was the fitting end that Mumbai's brilliance deserved. Brilliance can sometimes get boring but in this format - especially when sustained across a tournament - it is something to be cherished.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo