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Rohit Sharma has helped Mumbai Indians emerge as the most successful franchise in the IPL. (Image Credit: Twitter)
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IPL: Celebrating Mumbai Indians’ surge to supremacy under Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma has helped Mumbai Indians emerge as the most successful franchise in the IPL. (Image Credit: Twitter)
Rohit Sharma has helped Mumbai Indians emerge as the most successful franchise in the IPL. (Image Credit: Twitter)

Mumbai Indians (MI) is the most successful team in the history of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Mumbai-based franchise has four IPL titles to its name so far. One of the major factors behind this success is the sublime captaincy by Rohit Sharma. Rohit helped MI find its feet when it mattered the most, carving a glorious legacy.

2008-2012: Struggle for first 5 seasons

The IPL named four players as icons for their respective city franchises. This made them unavailable to play for any team other than their city side. Sachin Tendulkar was named Mumbai’s icon player and the captain. MI got off to a bad start losing their first four games by comprehensive margins. They finished fifth in the points table with 7 wins and as many losses, missing out on a semifinal spot.

The 2009 season was played in South Africa. After winning their opening match against Chennai Super Kings (CSK), MI struggled to deliver consistent performances. The reliance on JP Duminy, Sachin Tendulkar, and Lasith Malinga came back to haunt them. With only five wins from 14 matches, MI finished seventh in the league table.

At the 2010 player auction, Kieron Pollard was signed for $750,000 following a secret tiebreaker. MI won seven of their opening eight games to earn the top spot on the points table. They further reached the final after beating RCB in the semis. However, there was a heart-break in store for fans, following a defeat against CSK in the final by 22 runs.

The team management was criticized for “strategic errors” during the final. One of those was the decision to send Pollard way down the order. However, all concerns were going to be sorted out soon enough astutely.

Rohit Sharma’s sparkling introduction

In 2011, MI signed Rohit Sharma for $2 million. The franchise had no idea this would turn their fortunes around in the upcoming seasons. MI finished third on the points table, qualifying for the Eliminator. They further went on to face off against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Qualifier 2, after defeating Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). However, MI fell short by 43 runs in the encounter. The shockwaves resulted in Tendulkar stepping down, with Harbhajan named as the skipper. However, even the 2012 edition did not result in a significant difference, with MI defeated in the Eliminator.

After waiting for five seasons, 2013 was the year for MI. With Anil Kumble as the coach, Rohit Sharma was handed the captaincy after Ricky Ponting stepped down midway. This was the first step towards a change in fortunes for MI. In his very first game as skipper, Rohit led MI to a win against KKR. With the presence of greats like Kumble, Ponting, and Sachin Tendulkar, he had the perfect opportunity to develop as a fine captain.

Shrewd introduction of Rishi Dhawan

In his very first season as captain, Rohit led MI to the final in 2013. To top it all, MI was up against rivals CSK in the final. Kieron Pollard’s gutsy 32-ball 60 propelled the team to a respectable total of 148 after a collapse. Rohit then led his side tremendously well under pressure. He rotated the bowlers tactically and used them astutely. When Dwayne Bravo arrived at the crease after CSK were 4 down with just 21 runs on the board, he started taking on Mitchell Johnson and Pragyan Ojha in the middle overs. Rohit realised that he can create problems with his big-hitting abilities once he is set. He quickly brought Rishi Dhawan into the attack from nowhere.

That punt from Rohit created havoc. Rishi conceded just 6 off that over with a very crucial wicket of Bravo. As a result of his fine captaincy, MI successfully restricted CSK to a mere 125 despite MS Dhoni’s heroics (45-ball 63). The franchise, therefore, ended its trophy drought, winning its maiden IPL title in 2013. This was an indicator of the dominance in the following years, by captain Rohit and his men.

“It was a huge challenge for me. The moment the captaincy came to me, I was ready. I thank everyone who believed that I could do the job. Lifting the trophy is another thing but it was a learning curve for me and I really enjoyed it” Rohit Sharma said after the IPL 2013 final.

Supreme comeback against RR

In 2014, MI didn’t start off well losing 5 of their matches in the UAE leg against KKR, RCB, CSK, and DD by big margins. They did well in their 5th match against SRH. With one game left to play, they were placed fifth in the table with 12 points.

In the last league-stage match of the season against RR who were fourth in the league table with 14 points, they needed to win by a big margin so as to leapfrog the opponent into the fourth spot and claim the play-offs spot too. RR set a target of 190 runs, but MI had to reach the target in 14.3 overs in order to improve the net run rate and claim the fourth position in the table.

It all came down to a boundary off the next ball to push RR below and claim that fourth spot. Aditya Tare smashed a six against a full toss bowled by James Faulkner. Due to that six, they reached the IPL play-offs but lost against CSK in the eliminator. This ended their IPL 2014 campaign.

Dream turnaround in 2015

In the 2015 season, MI had lost 5 out of their first 6 matches. Many reckoned that there was no way they could qualify for the playoffs.

From the first match itself, Rohit made his mark against KKR at his favourite venue Eden Gardens. He scored a blistering 98*. Although MI lost the match, Rohit left his impact with the bat as well as his captaincy.

Faced with the prospect of their fifth successive defeat, MI finally pulled together to help set up an 18-run win over RCB at Chinnaswamy Stadium. Half-centuries from Lendl Simmons and Unmukt Chand, and 42 off 15 from Rohit helped MI reach 209 in 20 overs. This was the match, where Rohit unleashed Jasprit Bumrah against AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli. Bumrah dismissed both the batsmen to help MI register their first win of the campaign.

It was said that the Rohit-led side would have to get in some major changes to even stand a chance. But the quality of a great leader is to understand his players and know when they could deliver for the team. It turned out to be a dream turnaround as Mumbai went on to win its second title, once again beating rivals CSK in the final.

This time around though, it was a one-sided affair. Courtesy a blistering 26-ball 50 from Rohit, leading from the front, and a quickfire 68 from Lendl Simmons, MI posted a massive total of 202. It proved to be too much for CSK, as they were bundled out for a 161. Where the first title ended the drought, the second one was a testimony of the dominance that was to prevail.

Rohit’s historic feat

Rohit did not make more than two or three changes and led his side to a successful championship win. He also became the first captain to win the man of the match award in the final.

While Kohli is known for his constant shuffling of the team, Hitman sticks with his players and the results are evident. With limited-overs cricket being a game of confidence, the captain’s backing can give a player the assurance to go ahead and play his natural game. This is when one’s complete potential is utilized and he turns into a great match-winner.

“We played like true champions. Mumbai Indians have shown great character. It was just a matter of putting everything on the field and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was important that we got some momentum, it didn’t happen at the start, but the turnaround was great.” Rohit Sharma said after the IPL 2015 victory.

In the IPL 2016 auction, they bought Tim Southee, Jos Buttler, Krunal Pandya. MI finished the season in the fifth spot in the points table.

Nail-biting thriller

After losing their opening match against RPSG, MI came back stronger in their second game against KKR. Rohit made it clear to the opposition by introducing the Pandya Brothers and Nitish Rana that this young brigade could do miracles on the field. MI restricted KKR to 178, with Krunal Pandya delivering super performance recording figures of 3-24. During the chase, Rana scored a classy half-century off 28 balls, with Hardik scoring 30 runs in 11 balls leading MI to victory on the penultimate ball of the match.

In their 4th match of the campaign, while chasing RCB’s 143, MI crumbled to 33 for 5. Samuel Badree was enjoying his spell with 4 wickets for 9 runs including a hat-trick. In such a tough situation, Krunal batted brilliantly alongside Kieron Pollard and led MI to victory with 7 balls to spare. The former also bowled superbly in that match.

Rohit’s masterstroke in IPL 2017 final

The 2017 season for MI was totally dominated by their young players. Nitish Rana, Pandya brothers, Mayank Markande, and Jasprit Bumrah were all backed by Rohit Sharma, and they delivered masterpieces in crucial times for the team.

To be a successful captain, one needs to be innovative and think two moves ahead of his counterpart. Rohit has definitely been successful in doing this, a prime example being the 2017 IPL Final against Smith’s Rising Pune Supergiants.

MI had scored only 129 runs in their 20 overs and everyone believed that they had definitely lost the final. But quitters never win and winners never quit.

The Mumbai captain kept rotating his bowlers and kept the pressure on the opposition. Even though a very low run rate was required, he did not let the game slip out of his team’s reach. It came down to a point where the Steve Smith-led team required 11 runs of the last over. This is where Rohit showed why he is regarded as one of the best captains.

Mitchell Johnson was bowling the last over. Off the first two deliveries, one was a boundary and the other was a wicket. It came down to 7 in 4 balls and a well set Smith was on strike. The Aussie batsman timed one sweetly which commentators at first called a six. To everyone’s surprise, Ambati Rayudu at sweeper cover completed the catch.

No one had expected a fielder to be there, but that’s what excellent minds do, they go beyond what the normal can expect. The Mumbai franchise went on to win the match and this meant that MI clinched their THIRD TITLE in a last-over thriller by the smallest of margins ever, just a solitary run!.

While Malinga remained economical, it was Mitchell Johnson and Jasprit Bumrah who shared 5 wickets amongst themselves. It was thus, a combined bowling effort and phenomenal captaincy from Rohit that led Mumbai to victory.

“This final will be special to us because of the way we fought,” Rohit said.

Rise of Suryakumar Yadav

In IPL 2018, MI finished at the fifth spot after winning 6 and losing 8 matches. CSK clinched their third IPL trophy after making a comeback from their 2-year ban. This put MI and CSK on equal terms with 3 IPL titles each. The season also saw the rise of Suryakumar Yadav (popularly known as SKY).

MI bought SKY from KKR, where his potential was not being utilized. He was given a finisher’s role, with Rohit promoting the cricketer to the No.3 slot. Wait! Is it some deja-vu? Interestingly, the same was Rohit’s story in his initial phase of international cricket. And by giving justice to Rohit’s backing, Surya Kumar scored a whopping 512 runs in 14 matches at a SR of 133.33 with 4 half-centuries.

Ultimate Battle for Supremacy

The 2019 IPL final was the ultimate battle for supremacy. An anticipated ‘blockbuster,’ the final lived up to the expectations. It was Rohit locking horns with MS Dhoni, as the two skippers faced off with a record fourth IPL title up for grabs. Batting first, Mumbai could only manage a 148-run total on the board.

On the other hand, Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson guided CSK off to a good start. However, MI picked wickets at regular intervals to stay in the hunt. While Watson stood strong at one end, wickets continued to tumble on the other.

It went right down the wire, as CSK required 9 off the final over, with 5 wickets still at their disposal. Rohit, again backing his players threw the ball to Lasith Malinga. Interestingly, Malinga had conceded 42 runs off his previous 3 overs. The seasoned campaigner that he is, Malinga did not fail to deliver despite being expensive. With 2 runs required off the last ball, Malinga dismissed Shardul Thakur plumb in front, as CSK fell short by just 1 run!.

It was similar to the 2017 final, where Rohit with his magnificent captaincy and his men held their nerves to clinch last-ball thrillers.

MI, therefore, won its fourth IPL title, making them the most successful team in the history of IPL. Rohit overtook Dhoni as the most successful captain as well, with four titles under his belt. The seed sown in 2013 by handing Rohit the captaincy bloomed into MI’s turnaround towards a dream IPL journey.


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