Over the years, Mumbai Indians have made quite a reputation of being slow-starters and garnering momentum as the business-end of the Indian Premier League approached. With 5 defeats in their first 6 games, the script looked eerily familiar to the one that was unfurled last year. 4 out of 5 wins followed but just when the team needed to win their last league game against Delhi Daredevils to qualify, they slipped up and ended up fifth on the points table.

Here are the various reasons why the defending champions failed to make it through to the Top Four.

A slew of last-over finishes

While last over games are a treat to the spectators who fill the stands in numbers, they can be disastrous to a team’s fortunes going ahead in the tournament. MI had five last-over losses, two of which were last-ball ones and it is safe to say that they turned to be the game-changer in the end. If the side had ended up winning just one or two of the tight encounters, they could have been playing in Kolkata for the Eliminator, but a lack of experience and the indifferent form of the experienced pros who could raise their hands and take responsibility in such a situation ended their progress.

The middle-order woes haunt Mumbai

Mumbai has always boasted of a strong middle-order that comprised players like Ambati Rayudu, the Pandya brothers and the big West Indian Keiron Pollard. The biggest disappointment of the season was how the burly Pollard fared. The player was retained via the Right to Match Card after he had scored 385 runs at a rate of 139.49 in 2017, but with only 133 runs in 9 matches this year, Pollard proved to be a disaster. He hit just ten boundaries in his stay at the crease in the 9 outings and the fact that he did not bowl a single delivery meant that Pollard soon turned into a liability for his side.

Krunal and Hardik scored in excess of 200 runs this season, but they were more reliable bets with the ball, and with even Rohit Sharma not pitching in with his best, Mumbai never recuperated.

The unavailability of a game-changing spinner

The inclusion of a world-class spinner in a side has its own benefits, especially in the IPL, where matches are held in the dry heat of the Indian summer. With the tournament being held at the end of the season, the pitches are usually drier than usual with a lot of cracks and turns on offer. Hence, the inclusion of a spinner who can trouble the rivals with his slower deliveries that makes run scoring tough is crucial.

Mumbai had Harbhajan Singh in their ranks for ten years but after they let him go, they failed to get on-board a player of his calibre. Youngster Mayank Markande impressed with 7 wickets in his first two games but he was able to scalp only 8 more in the next 12 games. Krunal too did take up 12 wickets but the inexperience of playing in pressure situations haunted them. On occasions, they were unable to contain the flow of runs and pick up wickets, something that Bhajji had done with ease.

Jasprit Bumrah’s inability to bowl the toe-crushing yorkers consistently

Jasprit Bumrah has turned out to be a true match-winner for both India and Mumbai over the years. His miserly bowling at the end has proved to be a nemesis for the opponents and something similar was expected from the leader of the pace-attack this year as well. He did pick up 17 wickets but he was unable to create the kind of impact that a side has come to desire from Bumrah. Most of his wickets were of the lower middle-order players and his inability to strike upfront in the Powerplays hurt his side.

He was entrusted with the duties of bowling the penultimate over for a major part of the season, but more often than not, he failed to curtail the opponents. Against Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai needed to defend 27 from 12 deliveries, which would otherwise not have been considered a tough task for the Gujarat pacer. However, he conceded 20 runs in his over that led to a defeat for his side.

Against Rajasthan Royals, he needed to defend 28 from 12, but he gave away 18, which again did his team no good, and Mumbai went on to lose in the final over once more.

Rohit Sharma’s inability to lead from the front

Captain Rohit Sharma failed to impress both with his captaincy skills as well as with the bat. He kept shuffling the top-order and refused to open the innings, which is where he has thrived over the years. He scored only 286 runs with only two fifties. His average of 23.83 failed to inspire and it was the first time that the Hitman failed to cross 300 runs in a season. With three golden ducks, Rohit’s poor form along with Pollard’s proved ominous for the side, from which Mumbai could never recover.