Chennai entered the IPL 2015 final as marginal favourites but the perennial tournament powerhouses couldn’t keep pace with Mumbai Indians when it mattered. So what went wrong on the night? Here are five moments that cost the minor premiers.
The Toss: England legend WG Grace famously said: “When you win the toss – bat. If you are in doubt, think about it, then bat. If you have very big doubts, consult a colleague – then bat.”
It’s an advice that’s still applicable in this day and age, especially in the longer format, but Twenty20 cricket might not really subscribe to that saying. Nor does it look likely that skipper MS Dhoni is much of a ‘consulting the colleague’ kind when it comes to the toss.
And yet it came as a surprise that in the high-pressure environment of an IPL final, the captain opted to field first.
The decision almost seemed to have been vindicated when Faf du Plessis came up with a Superman effort to run Parthiv Patel as Mumbai slumped to 1-1 after 1.2 overs, but it went kaput for the bowlers after that.
On a flat surface, the Mumbai batsmen batted without pressure – of course poor bowling was one of the factors too – and piled up a mammoth 200-plus score.
While he said their bowling was to blame, Dhoni did admit in his post-match conference that bowling first was a risk that didn’t pay off.
Mohit Sharma’s first over: After deciding to field first, Dhoni needed his bowlers to back that call. For an over, it looked like Ashish Nehra had done just that but as the Super Kings captain himself said, it was the second over, bowled by Mohit Sharma, that turned the game in the favour of Mumbai.
"I think the first over was good, the second was not,” Dhoni said. “That's where we gave them that landslide that we were not able to control.”
…and the generally poor bowling performance that followed: It’s hardly fair that only one bowler shoulders all the blame for a score of 202, especially when there have been three others who have bowled less economically.
The sense one got from watching the Super Kings bowling was they failed to get both their lines and lengths in order at the same time.
When they dug it in short to test out the batsmen, there was too much width provided, and when the length was fuller, they went too full.
Add a flat pitch and a very fast outfield to the mix and it’s a deadly concoction for any fielding side, and Chennai paid the price.
Delaying Bravo’s arrival to the bowling crease: Dhoni’s tactics this season have been to use his spinners in the first half of the innings as much as possible before going for Purple Cap-winner Dwayne Bravo for the first time during overs 11-14.
In this final, once Mumbai had rocketed off to 61 from their first six overs, one wonders if there was a case for bringing on Bravo earlier than the 12th over, by which time the Indians had smashed 110 for the loss of just a wicket and any stalling would have only been temporary.
Bravo almost proved the point by breaking that stand in his very first over and ending with a couple of wickets.
Chennai’s start with the bat: When Mumbai and Chennai met for the first time this season, the Indians looked to have batted themselves into a solid position by scoring 183 from their 20 overs. In reply, the Super Kings openers added 109 from just 7.2 overs and the rest of the batting didn’t have much to do after that.
In this final, managed 63 fewer than what they had made in that first match-up in that opening period. Such an ordinary start made the target of 203 almost impossible.
Dwayne Smith and Michael Hussey failed to get going against the new ball in the Powerplay. Hussey lasted nine balls for his four, while even Smith’s 57 from 48 balls was simply too sedate for the mountain Chennai had to climb.
A plethora of dot balls, borne out of a succession of misses to attempted heave-hos, meant the Super Kings were too far behind the asking rate to manage a serious crack at the Indians’ total.
Dhoni conceded afterward that the presence of Brendon McCullum would have helped.
It was McCullum who was instrumental in providing that 109-run start in the first Chennai-Mumbai game and despite the reassuring presence of ‘Mr Cricket’, the explosiveness of the Kiwis captain was sorely missed.