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Hoshedar N Gundevia in Mumbai 22 May 2012 - 01:23pm IST

Road to Playoffs: MI

Star-studded MI chase elusive IPL title

IPL 2012 has thrown its fair share of surprises already with past records and big-name players not amounting to much. The Mumbai Indians have been a mercurial side; their performances ebbing and flowing throughout the season. While consistent performances might have eluded MI, results have favoured the reigning CLT20 champions. Ten wins from 16 matches underscore the team’s will to win. That’s the main reason why they find themselves in the IPL 2012 playoffs looking for their first taste of league glory.

IPL 2012: MI began their season with a titanic clash against the Chennai Super Kings. Their comprehensive eight-wicket win over the reigning champions should have given them enough confidence to carry forth their momentum. Instead, they succumbed to an embarrassing 28-run home loss to the Pune Warriors India. This clearly summed up MI’s Jekyll and Hyde displays in the tournament.

Back-to-back wins followed for MI; Rohit Sharma’s last-ball six against DC saw them winning a close one, and then, a combined team effort helped them overcome the Rajasthan Royals at the Wankhede Stadium. Two consecutive victories were balanced out by two losses on the trot. The Delhi Daredevils humbled MI in Mumbai, while Kings XI Punjab proved they were good enough to topple the Harbhajan Singh-led side too.

MI’s batsmen needed to fire with their bowling lacking the depth due to Lasith Malinga’s temporary absence on account of his back injury. Still, Ambati Rayudu led the way in a thrilling four-wicket win over KXIP in Mohali to see MI climb back up the table. But they couldn’t quite measure up once again against the Daredevils in Delhi. The Mumbai franchise proved its mettle in the next three matches by winning against DC, PWI and CSK, all of which were high-pressure finishes. Dwayne Smith announced his arrival with his last-over heroics against the Super Kings, while MI batsmen successfully weathered Dale Steyn’s barrage against the Chargers. With five matches remaining in the league stage, MI held their nerve at the right moments to claim vital six points to secure their playoff spot.

Batting star: Rohit Sharma’s class is never in doubt, but his shaky temperament has let him down on previous occasions. With 419 runs, Sharma is MI’s top scorer so far this year. However, what’s crucial about his statistics is that his innings have, more often than not, led to victories in IPL 2012 – be it showing composure against a fired-up Dale Steyn against DC or playing right through the innings against KKR in Kolkata. The right-hander has been at the forefront of everything positive that MI has had to offer so far. The playoffs present the perfect stage for the 25-year-old to go ahead and make his mark in MI folklore.

Bowling star: While MI have struggled with consistency, their pace ace, Lasith Malinga, had no such troubles. The Sri Lankan took 22 wickets in 13 matches in the league stages to give his team a sense of security with the ball. A niggling back injury forced him to miss three games, but his return to the side coincided with the team’s upsurge. MI’s go-to bowler and IPL 2011’s Purple Cap winner, Malinga will once again be a severe roadblock to MI’s adversaries in the playoffs.

X-factor: In Kieron Pollard the Mumbai Indians possess the kind of weapon that few teams in the IPL can boast. With 204 runs and 15 wickets so far, Pollard is the ideal Twenty20 player. He might not have exploded with the bat this season, but his efforts can turn the tide in MI’s favour at any moment. The 25-year-old all-rounder is quite capable of providing that crucial push at this stage to give the Mumbai Indians a shot at claiming the elusive IPL title.

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