3-time IPL champions Mumbai Indians have made quite a reputation for themselves as traditional slow starters. They always seem to lose their first few matches of the season until everyone thinks they're in a crisis. And then the Rohit Sharma-inspired team pulls off a miraculous escape and cruise into the playoffs. This season seemed to follow the same script but they have fallen just short and missed the playoffs.
So what went wrong with Mumbai Indians this time around? Here are 9 possible reasons:
1. Slow start
They might be traditional slow starters but losing the first few games always makes it an uphill task for them. Just 1 win in the first 6 matches meant that they were always playing with fire and this time they got burnt.
2. Failed to carry on momentum
After losing 5 of the first 6, they had made it very difficult for themselves and had to keep winning. They did just that by winning 4 of the next 5. But the momentum vanished when they lost to Rajasthan in their 12th match.
It meant that qualifying for the playoffs was not in their hands anymore.
However, when it came down to their final round-robin match, they still had a chance.
But yet again, they left it till the end and even Ben Cutting's heroics couldn't bail them out as their playoffs hopes ended with the loss to Delhi at Kotla.
3. Very close defeats
The story would've been a whole lot different if Mumbai had won just 1 or 2 of the games they ended up losing. And many of them, including their final game, were nail biters. They lost 4 matches in the last over while defending targets, two of them by a single wicket.
4. Bumrah's 19th over disasters
It's not fair to single out players after defeats but Jasprit Bumrah will have to take the blame for two of those last-gasp defeats. He bowled the penultimate over when CSK needed 27 runs from 12 balls. He gave away 20 runs and Mumbai ended up losing.
He did the same thing versus Rajasthan Royals who needed 28 runs from 12 balls. Bumrah conceded 18 runs and Mumbai lost in the final over again.
His man-of-the-match winning performance against Kings XI Punjab in their penultimate league match reminded us of the old Bumrah of the Mumbai Indians.
The equation was 23 from 12. Bumrah bowling the 19th over gave away just 6 runs and pocketed the wicket of Yuvraj Singh. Mumbai defended 17 with ease in the final over. If only...
5. Captain's poor form
Rohit Sharma discovered his best form for club and country after he started opening the batting. He takes time to get settled but once he does, he goes on a rampage.
His decision to let Surya Kumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan might be a selfless one and a long-term strategy but it cost Mumbai the season.
In 14 innings, he has just 286 runs at an average of 23.83. If you exclude the 94 vs RCB, his stats read 192 runs in 13 innings at an average of 17.45.
After that knock against RCB, he said No. 4 was going to be his position but he had come in to bat in the first over at 0/2 so he was effectively playing as an opener. He scored just 40 off the first 30 balls and then added 54 off the next 22 which is exactly why he should open the innings.
6. Kieron Pollard
Since joining in 2010, the burly West Indian has been a serial winner for MI, contributing with both bat and ball. But he does not bowl anymore in the IPL and did not contribute much this season with the bat either while also taking up one of the 4 foreigner slots. This season in 8 innings, he scored just 133 runs, averaging a paltry 19.
7. Not batting as a unit
Except Surya Kumar Yadav, Evin Lewis and Ishan Kishan (to an extent), no one really performed with the bat for MI. The middle order has been especially woeful. There have been matches where these 3 have given them solid starts but the rest of the batsmen failed to add to it and could not build big scores.
Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai were chasing 119 but were bundled for just 87, their lowest-ever IPL total. They let this happen on a fresh Wankhede pitch against a bowling attack which was without Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Billy Stanlake.
The habit of leaving it late and pulling it off every season probably got to Mumbai Indians. Despite their slow start, there was no panic within the team or in the media as everyone kept talking about how this was their game plan. But each defeat only made it tougher for them to finish in the top 4 and eventually their luck ran out.
9. Odd year winners
Since their first IPL title in 2013, Mumbai have won the title every alternate year. They have followed it up with two more titles in 2015 and 2017.
So trivia aficionados have been dismissing them from the start of this season, saying they will only be serious contenders next in 2019.
Also by the author this IPL season:
Dhoni the Finisher is back and how!
Dhoni, Williamson the stand out captains of IPL 2018 so far
Yuvraj, Gambhir headline 8 stars who have struggled to make a mark in IPL 2018
10 cricketers who can use IPL 2018 to get into the Indian team