Cameron Green
Cameron Green and Tim David of the Mumbai Indians during the Tata Indian Premier League match against the Lucknow Super Giants at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium, Lucknow, on May 16, 2023. The duo were unable to take Mumbai to the victory that would have brought them closer to a playoff spot. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

What’s happening to the Mumbai Indians? The loss to the Lucknow Super Giants was uncharacteristic of the five-time IPL winners. Usually, Mumbai have their tails up at the business end of the Indian Premier League. That’s why Tuesday’s loss was baffling.

I had written off Mumbai’s chances even before a ball was bowled in Season 16. My belief stemmed from their pathetic bowling squad. That was reflected in Mumbai’s early struggles, which is typical of their campaigns. Captain Rohit Sharma turned their fortunes around with enough wins to remain in the fight for the top four spots.

A win over Lucknow would have brought them to the semifinals. That looked possible when the Mumbai bowlers ran circles around their rivals. It lasted until Marcus Stoinis cut loose in the slog overs.

A chase that lost its way

Mumbai’s chase was back on track with Sharma leading the way before the batsmen lost their way. Suryakumar Yadav’s dismissal could well have been the turning point, given his red-hot form. More critical was Vishnu Vinod’s departure. Lucknow should thank Nicholas Pooran for that remarkable leaping catch that sent back Vinod. If the ball had sailed a couple of inches higher, Mumbai would have walked out winners, and the question of whether Cameron Green should have come in earlier would not have been asked.

Well, it didn’t happen. Green and Tim David struggled against some tight bowling, especially from Mohsin Khan. David got a few sixes, but not enough. That’s been the story for the Mumbai Indians this year.

No new Malinga and Boult

So where did it go wrong for them? Mumbai’s problems started with the composition of the team. Jasprit Bumrah’s surgery and Jofra Archer’s delayed recovery and recurrence of an elbow injury robbed them of firepower. Jason Behrendorff, Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith weren’t adequate replacements. That meant Mumbai could never seize the advantage in the powerplay; they could never land the blows delivered by Lasith Malinga and Trent Boult in their victorious campaigns.

With a limp attack, Mumbai never stood a chance. But veteran leg-spinner Piyush Chawla has been a standout performer as Sharma juggled his thin resources. The Arjun Tendulkar experiment fortunately didn’t last long as Mumbai figured that teams would target him as soon as the novelty wore off.

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Batting too was a struggle. When captain Sharma’s runs dried up after an early half-century, Yadav continued to search for form, leaving Mumbai in troubled waters. Young Tilak Varma’s brave efforts kept them afloat, and Yadav’s return to scoring ways helped Mumbai scale the points table.

It looked like a typical Mumbai Indians’ campaign: an appalling start, followed by a string of victories before picking up steam in the playoffs. That was missing on Tuesday.

The absence of Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya is all too glaring. David showed he could be the new Pollard, taking them to an improbable win over the Rajasthan Royals with sixes off the last three balls. Green walks in Pandya’s shoes. Pollard and Pandya would have won the Lucknow game; that’s the difference. The loss underscored that David and Green still have some way to go before being proclaimed the new Pollard and Pandya.

IPL 16 is still not over for Mumbai, but a lot depends on other results. That’s not a comforting thought.