Sachin Tendulkar. Ricky Ponting. Anil Kumble. Jonty Rhodes. Robin Singh. Shane Bond. John Wright. Even though Kiran More, Paras Mhambrey and Rahul Sanghvi too were a part of the Mumbai Indians' support staff, the legends from India, Australia South Africa and New Zealand received a lot of criticism for turning into the proverbial “too many cooks” who would spoil the broth.
Despite having one of the strongest sides in the Indian Premier League, their ship was sinking. Just like the previous year, this year too, Mumbai were off to a disastrous start having lost five out of first six matches. Surprisingly, they had started the season with Aaron Finch as the second opener along with Parthiv Patel, and not Lendl Simmons – the man who played a key role in helping them reach the playoffs last year.
One of Mumbai's major problems since the inception of the tournament had been the absence of a world class opener, who could make the best of the Powerplay overs. While Simmons seemed to have solved that problem to an extent last year, inexplicably, he wasn't the first choice for the think tank this season.
It was only after Finch was ruled out with an injury after three matches that the West Indian was recalled into the playing eleven. Even though Simmons smashed a fifty in his second match of the season (Mumbai's fifth), by that time Mumbai were in a precarious position from where a comeback seemed impossible.
It wasn't that they were playing bad cricket, it was just that things weren't falling into place for them. Nobody could come to their rescue. Not Ponting, not Tendulkar, not Rhodes, not Bond.
But after those six games, something within the team changed. Maybe it was Ponting's experience as a world class leader, maybe it was Tendulkar's inspiration, but Mumbai Indians refused to give up and it was the start of a scintillating comeback for the team.
Every time Rohit Sharma was interviewed post a match his team lost, the skipper stressed on the fact that they were a quality side and it was a matter of time before they started winning matches on a regular basis.
To back his words, Rohit led from the front with back-to-back formidable knocks, and it was something which probably inspired the rest of the cricketers to give their best.
From Parthiv Patel at the top to Lasith Malinga at the bottom, everybody chipped in with match-winning performances and suddenly a team that was written off after six games looked like the team to beat. Every time the Mumbai players hit the field, they had the body language of a champion side and fought against all the odds to win a much-deserved title.
The highlight of Mumbai's campaign this year was the way two youngsters – Hardik Pandya and Jagadeesha Suchith were backed by the team management. Even though Mumbai had an experienced left-arm spinner in Pragyan Ojha, they still backed Suchith, a move which would have done wonders to the confidence of the youngster. In the company of Punter, Pandya within weeks became a known face in the tournament with his blistering knocks against quality opposition teams.
Beating Chennai Super Kings in back-to-back matches is no joke. By the time Mumbai reached the playoffs, they were determined to win the title considering they bounced back from dire straits. It was a treat to see them beat CSK in the first qualifier as well as the final.
It would have been very easy for the entire Mumbai team to give up after six games, considering they almost had to win every match from there onwards to make it to the play offs.
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”
What Mumbai Indians didn't lose was the belief that they were a champion team and had the potential to make a comeback. It was that belief which helped them win nine out of the next ten games, including the final in a convincing manner.
Many believe IPL is not serious cricket. While the debate whether it is or isn't is likely to continue, the fightback by Mumbai Indians this year, is a story which can inspire cricketers, teams across the world to never give up.