By: Chinmay Vaidya
It was an odd year, something Mumbai Indians have thrived in for the last half decade. In 2013, 2015 and 2017, the franchise captured its first three IPL titles to hold the most championships in league history. However, Chennai Super Kings won last season's title to level the overall championship score at 3-3 and CSK's consistency across every season in the tournament has been more impactful than Mumbai's recent string of wins. Still, the final showdown between Chennai and Mumbai would be another defining moment in IPL history between the two sides most responsible for shaping the competition.
In scenes reminiscent from 2017, Mumbai set what many would consider a total below par on the board at 149. The Indians then clawed their way back in the second half of the game and eventually won by 1 run, just like they did two years ago. Mumbai now has an IPL-record four championships and completed its 4-0 sweep of CSK in 2019.
As openers Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock had done all season, they got off to a quick start but couldn't convert into big scores. The Indians were cruising at a little over 9.0 runs per over before de Kock perished in the fifth over. Sharma followed three balls later. The rest of the batting lineup had to dig in on a sticky surface in Hyderabad and gut out runs. Kieron Pollard's 41 from 25 pushed Mumbai to 149 at the end of the innings. It was runs on the board in a final.
Mumbai has a history of successfully defending what one might consider poor totals. The Indians beat Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017 with 130 on the board. They took down Sunrisers this season with 136 and CSK with 155. It was going to require a similar effort in the final.
Shane Watson, who blasted 117 not out in last season's final, looked in great touch once again. He finished with 80 runs in 59 balls, but his indecision on a run out in the final over was costly. Jasprit Bumrah had crucial breakthroughs with the wickets of Ambati Rayudu and Dwayne Bravo. But the most important character of the final was Sharma, who cemented his legacy as a leader throughout this season.
Let's consider some of the decisions Sharma had to make this season. Mayank Markande, last year's sensational bowler, was swapped out for Rahul Chahar. The latter dismissed Suresh Raina early. Mitchell McClenaghan, who had spent more than a month on the bench after playing the opening three games for Mumbai and the final game against KKR, got the nod for the final. He bowled four clean overs. Sharma had a choice to make between Lasith Malinga and Hardik Pandya for the final over. The latter had only gone for three runs in his lone over, but he has consistently been one of the worst death bowlers in IPL history. Sharma went with Malinga even though the aging Sri Lankan had gone for 42 runs in his previous three overs.
Malinga gave up just seven runs in the final over, including a wicket on a slower ball on the last delivery to seal the win. He had this to say in the post-match presentation on his decision to go for the win with the slower ball.
"Last ball, I thought that if they get one run, it would be a Super Over, but I wanted us to win," Malinga said. "So I went for my wicket ball."
After struggling in the first five seasons of the tournament and appearing in just one final, the Indians have made their mark in the next seven. Mumbai has won four titles in seven seasons and doesn't look to be going away anytime soon. The Indians were going up against the IPL's dynasty in CSK and needed every ounce of effort from every player on the field to cement their status as one of the premier franchises in the league.
With two franchises looking to make history, it all came down to one run in a final during an odd year. It wasn't going to be anybody but the Indians lifting that trophy.