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Mumbai Indians' captain Hardik Pandya reacts during the Indian Premier League match against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Several records tumbled in the Tata Indian Premier League match between hosts Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians in Hyderabad on Wednesday. Sunrisers managed to come on top in a match that saw the carnage of bowlers, but one person who has been constantly under the microscope is Mumbai skipper Hardik Pandya. He has been bearing most of the fans’ brunt after returning home to his home franchise that shaped his career at the international level.

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Prior to the start of the IPL Season 17, Pandya, while addressing the media, said that he doesn’t have a magic wand to change the fortunes overnight of a team. The team, which won five IPL titles in a span of eight years between 2013 to 2020, has been struggling over the last three years.

Last year the MIPaltans barely managed to make the play-offs after finishing last in 2022. In 2021 they were equally miserable losing out on the play-off spot to Kolkata Knight Riders on net run rate. However, during the last three years their win-loss ratio is just over 50 per cent in two seasons, while they managed to win just four out of the 14 matches in 2022.

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Virtually same team

What ails the team? Barring Pandya, the team is largely the same in terms of Indian players. They are not able to replace legends of Twenty20 like Kieron Pollard and on the bowling front, the return of Jasprit Bumrah was a big boost but with loss of bowlers like Trent Boult, who was less preferred to injury-prone Jofra Archer, the Mumbai bowling is in shambles.

The lack of form of the dependable Rohit Sharma, who finished a distant 28 in top-scorers list with 332 runs in 16 innings, is really hurting the team. Fellow opener Ishan Kishan fared better with 454 runs, while world No 1 Twenty20 batter Suryakumar Yadav finished Mumbai’s leading scorer with 605 runs with a highest of 103 not out in 16 innings. But SKY is yet to recover from an ankle injury and his absence was felt during the match against Hyderabad.

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Mumbai Indians' Gerald Coetzee celebrates a wicket with Jasprit Bumrah during the match against Sunrisers. Image Credit: AFP

It is important for a couple of batters and few bowlers to perform consistently to keep the team on the winning path. It should be a total team effort, but that was not the case in the last few years.

Use of Bumrah against Hyderabad

So is the criticism on Pandya justified after just two losses? Not fully, but partially for the manner in which he used Bumrah. But looking at Hyderabad innings while bowling, Pat Cummins and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were more effective on the wicket with the old ball than the hard new ball. He could have also brought in the impact player earlier. However, all these are ifs and buts.

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Pandya has returned with a very high success rate after guiding Gujarat Titans to win in their debut season and then to the final last season. He too is back after an injury break and needs time to get into the groove. All is not lost yet, but certainly the players will have to stand up to be counted.

Pandya didn’t blame anyone for the loss and said he is happy with the effort of the players, without naming any bowler or even Tim David for spilling the early chance of Travis Head, who gave Sunrisers the launchpad to take the team to record 277 for three.

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Hardik Pandya speaks to the team before the start of the match against Sunrisers in Hyderabad. Image Credit: AFP

“The wicket was good. No matter how good or bad you bowl, if the opposition get 277, that means they batted very well. It was tough out there for the bowlers as 500 runs were scored. So the wicket was helping the batters. We could have tried a few different things, but we have a young bowling attack and I liked what I saw today,” Pandya told the broadcasters during the presentation ceremony.

Bowling a cause for worry

“Everyone batted really well, counting Tilak Varma, Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan. There are just few things we need to do right and we’ll be alright.”

By staying in the chase, the Mumbai batters would have regained their confidence, but bowling department, especially the spinners, will continue to be a cause for worry for the five-time champions.

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Sunrisers Hyderabad players celebrate their win against Mumbai Indians at home. Image Credit: AFP

It is not just Mumbai, even Sunrisers, who must have been pleased with the win, must now be fretting as they have conceded in excess of 200 for the second time in a row. Most of the teams in this IPL Season 17 have become pace heavy and the Wednesday’s match was a proof that the pacers will come under heavy attack this season, despite the two-bouncer rule. The lack of quality spinners as the tournament progresses will come back to bite some of these trendsetters. The key is to find the right combination, which Mumbai must be hoping to get sooner than later.

The richest franchise league has just began with all the home teams winning eight of the eight matches so far. More to come over the next two months.