A few days ago, you could sympathise with Mumbai Indians because they were putting in the performances but narrowly missing out on results. Before their last match, they had lost four out of five games; all four in the last over while defending targets, and two by one wicket.
On Tuesday against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai had no one to blame but themselves. Chasing 119, they collapsed to their lowest-ever IPL total of 87 on a fresh Wankhede pitch against an attack that was without Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Billy Stanlake.
What has gone wrong for them? Here are a few factors that have combined to put Mumbai Indians at the bottom of the table.
Mumbai’s strength during last year’s winning campaign has turned into their weakness. The personnel has remained similar, after an auction in which they attempted to retain the core of the Pandya brothers and Kieron Pollard, but that core has not fired.
Mumbai’s think-tank also decided to open with Suryakumar Yadav after their first two losses, so that Rohit Sharma could add stability to the middle order. Even though Suryakumar has adapted well, the lack of runs from the Pandyas and Pollard has hurt Mumbai.
In each of their six matches so far, at least one of their top-order batsmen – Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar – has given them a start. The hole in the middle order was exposed the most against Delhi Daredevils, when all of their top fired to power Mumbai to 141 for 2 in 13 overs. From there, they unravelled in the attempt to accelerate and ended on 194 when they were on course for 220.
Hardik Pandya’s case is unusual. He started off well in the opening match at No. 5 but has moved down to No. 7 since then, below Krunal Pandya and Pollard. Apart from two unbeaten innings of 22 and 17, he has scored nine runs across three innings while coming out to bat in the last three overs. It could be that bowlers have found out Hardik’s weakness and don’t deliver the ball in his arc anymore. When Mumbai head coach Mahela Jayawardene was asked about this, he didn’t dismiss the possibility.
Pollard’s transition from a fixed asset to a non-performing one seems to be happening rapidly this season. He doesn’t bowl in the IPL anymore, he hasn’t won his side a match in times of crisis, and he takes one of the four overseas spots. Apart from the lack of runs, it is also his position that is under scrutiny now. He has been coming out to bat with not much time left in the innings and is striking at 88.23 in his first 10 balls, the fourth-worst of all batsmen to have faced a minimum of 30 balls this season. Will Mumbai now look to move him up the order or will they drop him altogether?
Rohit Sharma clarified after his 94 against Royal Challengers Bangalore that he would continue in the middle order to allow Suryakumar and Kishan to flourish at the top. Rohit may have been batting at No. 4 on that particular day, but he walked out in the first over, with Mumbai 0 for 2, effectively opening the innings – which is where he bats for India.
Opening works for Rohit because he is at his best when he has time to get his eye in, and time is a luxury in T20 cricket. In all T20s since 2015, he has a first-10-balls strike rate of 117.6, with a dot-ball percentage of nearly 50 in that time. If he opens for Mumbai, he can afford to go slow early on, since he will have Lewis or Kishan to do the early hitting at the other end. Once he’s set, Rohit is capable of murderous acceleration: once he has faced 30 balls, he strikes at 177.3. That was exactly the case against Royal Challengers; he was on 40 off 30 after 14 overs, and then launched into the quick bowlers to score 54 runs off his next 22 balls.
As captain, Rohit might be thinking long-term by promoting Suryakumar and Kishan up the order. But given the situation Mumbai are in, he will have to prioritise immediate results over developing younger players. And for that, moving back up to open might not be a bad idea. (Excerpts from ESPNcricinfo)