Kolkata: Five-time champions Mumbai Indians are known to be slow starters in their IPL campaign over the years, but it’s difficult to recall when was it last time that they lost three of their first five games and more importantly - looked as vulnerable.
It’s quite possible that a change of venue for them from the slow decks of Chennai to New Delhi - where the flat wickets and smaller boundaries may help them find their bearings - but Rohit Sharma and the team’s think tank have a few headaches to ponder before they play their next game in the Indian capital after four days’ gap. The famous Mumbai template, which has served them so well over the years, suddenly seem to have developed a few chinks in the armour.
While their talismanic skipper Rohit had been the pillar of their batting prowess, he has failed to give the team the characteristic explosive starts - with the Chepauk wicket hardly helping a strokeplayer like him. The ‘Hitman’ went against his grain to score his first half-century this season against Punjab Kings, but the opening combination has failed to click with Quinton de Kock just managing to get a 40 in four innings so far. While the former South African skipper is too good a performer to fail, the middle order also looks fragile with young Ishan Kishan failing to get going and often falling to poor shot selection.
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This puts a lot of responsibility on Suryakumar Yadav’s shoulders, who on form, looks the best batsman for the champions. The 2020 edition in the UAE almost followed a pattern in the Mumbai innings where even if the team had reached to 120s or 130s from the first 15 overs, the trio batting at number five to seven - the Pandya brothers and Kieron Pollard would give that late blitz which saw the team eventually finishing with a total in the region of 190.
This has not happened so far while Hardik Pandya, their man for all seasons, failing with the bat and the team management not risking him for bowling as part of his so-called workload management. This effectively leaves Mumbai a bowler short in the pace department after Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah - though Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya has been making up for it when they successfully defended modest totals on at least two occasions.
Over the years, Mumbai have shown a welcome trend of backing their players to the hilt. This time around, it will be interesting to see if they stick to their gameplan or think about experimenting with the likes of an experienced Jimmy Neesham or Nathan Coulter-Nile in the upcoming games.
Meanwhile, full marks to Punjab for ticking all the boxes – be it in bowling or the fearless start that KL Rahul & Mayank Agarwal gave their team – which succeeded in them winning the mental battle of chasing against Mumbai.