If the 2015 IPL final between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings were a boxing match, the referee would have called off the fight after the first round itself. CSK were left reeling from the assault in the Powerplay by Rohit Sharma and Lendl Simmons that the game was over well before Mumbai were even done playing their quota of twenty overs.
It was Chennai’s 6th appearance in an IPL final and Mumbai’s third. Chennai had the experience, and the reputation of coming through in crunch games. However, Mumbai were the form team, winning nine out of 11 games, steeled by playing an entire month of do-or-die matches. When MS Dhoni decided to field after winning the toss, a big ‘no no’ in finals especially with CSK’s batting line up low on confidence, MI tore CSK’s reputation to shreds.
The confidence in the Mumbai ranks must have been so high that their skipper launched in to Mohit Sharma in only the second over of the innings even after losing the steady Parthiv Patel early in the piece. Sixteen runs flowed from the blade of Rohit Sharma. The CSK levee was breached early and washed away in the run deluge. Twenty overs and two hundred and two runs later, Chennai were left gasping for breath on the mat, bruised and battered.
The magic figure in analysis of T20 batting performance is 170. If a batsman’s strike rate and average add up to more than 170, he is considered to be a very good performer. In 2015, five of Mumbai’s top seven batsmen appearing in the IPL final (Rohit Sharma, Pandya, Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu) had their strike rate and average add up to more than 170. The other two batsmen, Simmons and Parthiv, were at 167 and 162 respectively. On the other hand, only P Negi exceeds 170 for CSK’s top seven batsmen. The only other CSK batsman in 2015 to exceed 170 is away donning the whites in England.
While Mumbai roared and rampaged in their first six overs, the Chennai response barely even registered a squeak. Like punch drunk prize fighters, the Chennai openers swung for the fences and caught only fresh air. Mumbai’s disciplined and varied bowling attack exposed all the cracks in Chennai’s line up. The over-reliance on the openers, and the gaping hole left behind by Brendon McCullum were clearly tangible.
Suresh Raina, who for the first time in eight seasons did not score in excess of 400 for the season, was pushed back to his usual slot of three and the reliable Faf du Plessis made an appearance only well after the fat lady had sung herself hoarse. Only the CSK die-hards would have had any hopes of a miraculous chase. Even they would have moved ahead to IPL 2016 by the time the powerplay overs were done. With 172 to get in 14 overs, CSK would have needed the Dhoni of 2011 and the Raina of 2013 to even have a sniff of the target.
Ravindra Jadeja’s stocks have fallen so much that Negi is preferred ahead of him in bowling as well as batting. Dwayne Bravo was sent higher up the order with no real runs or form behind him. The re-jigging of the batting line up for the final indicated confused thinking, and more importantly, CSK’s management trying to squeeze one good batting effort from a faltering lineup that was relying on its past rather than present.
Chennai’s run to the top of the table was primarily predicated on early season form of their openers and their reliable bowling attack. Even with the loss of form to key batsmen, and despite having a set of very competent bowlers – best economy rate in IPL 2015 and Bravo and Nehra amongst the top wicket-getters – Chennai chose to chase in the final. Reputations can only take teams so far. Now CSK have the unenviable record of losing in four IPL finals, and they have only themselves to blame for it.