IPL 8: Is There a Way Back For The Listless Mumbai Indians?

Mumbai Indians IPL 8
Mumbai Indians are yet to produce a convincing display this season

Mumbai Indians(MI) slumped to their 5th defeat in 6 Indian Premier League(IPL) games, against the Delhi Daredevils last night.

Rohit Sharma’s men just haven’t got going this season, and it looks increasingly likely that their season is fast petering out. Ricky Ponting, the new head coach of the franchise, and company haven’t been able to find their best playing XI till this point of the season but, to their defence, the MI squad has mediocrity written all over it. With just 7 more games to play in the season and needing at least 6 wins from the remaining fixtures, can the 1-time IPL winners turn it around?

Aaron Finch, the new recruit from Sunrisers Hyderabad, didn’t play well in the first two games of his Mumbai Indians’ career, following which he suffered a severe hamstring injury while batting against Rajasthan Royals and flew back home for treatment.

Lendl Simmons, who single-handedly carried them into the playoffs last season, has stepped into Finch’s shoes and looked good while he has been in the middle. However, the Caribbean dasher has yet to produce consistent scores and Mumbai subsequently haven’t flourished at the top.

In addition to their woes at the top of the innings, the middle order, barring Rohit, has been largely vulnerable, too. Corey Anderson, who scored 2 half-centuries while his side batted first in the games against Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals, has been ruled out of the rest of the IPL season due to a fractured finger, and the hard-hitting Southpaw’s absence could make MI’s middle-order even more lightweight.

Kieron Pollard has been good this season, smacking two half-centuries and rendering much needed runs while batting in the No.5 and No.6 positions. If the Indians are to turn to their season around, Pollard’s form with the bat will be rather indispensable.

It is the lack of contributions from batsmen other than the trio of Rohit, Anderson and Pollard, that has caused all sorts of problems for MI so far this season. Parthiv Patel isn’t a power-hitter and, in trying to accelerate the scoring rate, the diminutive wicket-keeper batsman has failed to render any sort of substance while opening the batting.

Ambati Rayudu, a very important cog in the MI juggernaut since his debut season of 2010, hasn’t delivered whenever his side has needed it the most, though his quick fire 29 off 16 balls against the Chennai Super Kings cannot go unnoticed.

Unmukt Chand scored an eye-catching 58 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, when he batted in the No.3 position, found that balance between scoring boundaries and picking up singles to keep the scoreboard moving. But then, the 2012 U-19 world cup winning captain couldn’t follow it up last night, which is disappointing.

In a nutshell: even though the Mumbai Indians have scored in excess of 160 in 4 of their 6 games so far, their batting has yet to fire as a unit and that simply cannot bode well for a team that needs to win close to 90% of its remaining games.

While the performances of the batting unit have not been good enough, the bowling department has yet to deliver even one convincing display so far in the tournament.

Harbhajan Singh is the leading wicket-taker in the side, taking 8 wickets and conceding a shade above 8 runs to the over.

Lasith Malinga, a backbone in MI’s resurgence since the 3rd season of the IPL, has been woefully out of form. The likes of Steve Smith and Brendon McCullum have scored boundaries at will against the unorthodox Sri Lankan quickie who, in addition to not being able to pick wickets, has found it hard to keep things tight during his 4 overs. Malinga has picked up 6 wickets in 6 games so far but, more worryingly, has been conceding more than 8.3 runs to the over which simply hasn’t been good enough for his side.

While Harbhajan and Malinga have not been at their best so far, the likes of Vinay Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Pawan Suyal and Jagadeesha Suchith have failed to come up with the goods. The aforementioned quartet have been taken for plenty of runs by opposition batsmen, and taken a mere 5 wickets between them although none of them have played in all 6 games.

Mitchell McClenaghan, the left-arm fast bowler from New Zealand, has bowled well in patches in his side’s last two games, but even he has failed to stem the hemorrhage of boundaries.

The Mumbai bowling attack has taken more than 5 opposition wickets only on one occasion this season and it is easy to see why: Malinga has been far from his best so far; and the lack of a solid second spinner to deputize for the reliable Harbhajan, has meant that MI have struggled to keep a lid on the opposition scoring freely.

To compound matters for the two-time CL T20 winners, their fielding has let them down too on occasions. Against the Knight Riders in the opening game of the season, having piled up a competitive 168/3 on the board, the team’s failure to hold on to its catches handed an easy victory to the defending IPL Champions. Their fielding hasn’t improved since that defeat, either.

When I look at ways that MI can turn their season around, the bowling simply has got to come good sooner than later. The batting, despite its inconsistency, is in safe hands, though Ponting and co. need to sort out the opening combination.

Even though we are almost at the half-way mark in this year’s IPL, it is tough to discern the minimum number of points Mumbai need from their remaining 7 games. But in all honesty, they ought to target a minimum of 6 victories from their remaining games and it will be a monumental achievement if they do make it to the playoffs this time around too.

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