The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League is well past the halfway stage, and fans now have an idea of each team's form.
The league games have thrown in some real surprises, where teams that were either strong on paper or had a great IPL track record have struggled to get going.
A case in point here is that the Chennai Super Kings may not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in IPL history. On the other hand, teams that normally haven't started off well in previous editions, like the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals, have been winning games and are already close to qualifying.
Amidst all the inconsistency in IPL track records, one thing that remains consistent is the form of defending champions Mumbai Indians. Walking into the 2020 IPL auctions, MI had a stronger team on paper than most teams after the auction.
Having made smart trades before the auction, skipper Rohit Sharma wouldn't have minded if Mumbai Indians hadn't place a single bid during the event.
Over the years, @mipaltan have made some excellent overseas purchases. The trade last year of Quinton de Kock is one of the better ones.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 16, 2020
But as champion teams often do, Mumbai Indians went a step further and made incredible buys which strengthened their team even more.
The fact that superstars such as Chris Lynn, Mitchell McClenaghan, Sherfane Rutherford, and Nathan Coulter-Nile have spent either all or most of the season on the bench, is a perfect testament to the balance this Mumbai Indians side possesses.
However, as the IPL has often shown us, a great team on paper does not guarantee a title if the team doesn't work as one cohesive unit. And that's where the strength of the Mumbai Indians really comes into play.
Starting with the side's batting department, both openers Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock have been among the runs and contributed majorly to at least one win.
At least one of the openers have, more often than not, anchored the innings. Coming to their middle-order, Suryakumar Yadav has picked up right where he left off in IPL 2019. One might say he's much closer to a national call-up owing to his form this season.
To put into perspective how they've functioned as a batting unit, neither of MI's top-order batsmen are currently leading contenders for the Orange cap (most runs) in the tournament. However, they have all been among the runs, with de Kock, Sharma, and Yadav occupying the 13th, 14th and 15th spot respectively.
This, in effect, means that they've almost equally contributed to the team's batting success as compared to an increased dependency on just one or two players.
MI's bowling department is easily one of the best, if not the best, in the tournament as well. The pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and James Pattinson have been wreaking havoc on opposition batting line-ups and are responsible for half the total wickets that Mumbai Indians have taken.
To add to this, the spin bowling led by young Rahul Chahar has been excellent to watch.
Similar to the batting unit, their bowlers haven't individually been top contenders for the Purple cap (most wickets). However, four of their bowlers are among the top 12 wicket takers in the tournament with Bumrah, Boult, Chahar and Pattinson at the 4th, 6th, 11th and 12th place respectively.
The fact that they've complimented each other's skills perfectly shows why they've enjoyed success as a bowling unit.
"Doesn't matter what kind of surfaces we play on because the quality of fast bowling we have is always going to create opportunities"
Jayawardene on Mumbai Indians' pace attack #IPL2020 https://t.co/p0syhzCPZP
— Vishal Dikshit (@Vishal1686) October 16, 2020
The prowess of the four-time IPL champions, much to the woes of other teams, does not end there.
The side's contingency plan, in the form of their all-rounders, have also given match-winning performances every time its been asked of them.
Krunal Pandya has often controlled the flow of runs with the ball and has also played supporting roles with the bat, while Hardik Pandya, though not yet ready to bowl, has given Mumbai Indians explosive finishes from time to time.
Last but certainly not least, Kieron Pollard has shown that he has the ability to grow 10 years younger just for the night. Having taken some unbelievable boundary catches and hit monstrous sixes, the 33-year-old West Indian has proved that he too is a match-winner in this team of match-winners.
🔥 Three big all-rounders who perform fabulously under pressure 🔥
Do they make it to your All-Time MI XI? Submit your teams now on: https://t.co/2g8YKYGsLp#OneFamily @hardikpandya7 @krunalpandya24 @kieronpollard55 @MarriottBonvoy pic.twitter.com/ulviA5keiT
— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) May 14, 2020
The Mumbai Indians well and truly have it all this year. With the playoffs just two weeks away, the focus for Rohit Sharma and co now would be to win as many of their remaining matches as possible, so that they finish among the top two in the league stage.
With a team that has produced big performances time and time again, one could expect Mumbai Indians to go all the way and win their second consecutive IPL title, extending their record tally to five trophies.