New Indian Premier League (IPL) season, same old story for the Mumbai Indians (MI). Being defending champions has not made any change whatsoever, to how Mumbai have started this season compared to the previous two campaigns. Indecisiveness, too ostentatious and injuries to key personnel are three fundamental reasons behind MI’s poor start to the 2016 campaign.
Frankly speaking, the Indians are struggling after four games. They have won just one of those, against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), and lost three games in which they have batted first, with the latest one coming against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) last night. The fact that they are struggling and look to have no clue means their task ahead is inexplicably difficult.
Let’s investigate the options they have and see if they can turn things around, like they managed in the last two seasons.
Mumbai Indians’ possible recovery
The defending IPL champions have 10 more games to play in the league stage of this edition, and will ideally need seven wins to reach the playoffs. It’s certainly doable and they have shown in the past, their ability to put five-six wins on the spin. Rohit Sharma and company will need to do something similar this time around too. Last season, for instance, they had managed just one win from the first six fixtures and looked doomed to not even make it to the playoffs. However, seven wins from the remaining eight league games saw them finish in the top two and then go on to beat Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in qualifier 1 and in the Final to lift their second title.
Now, Mumbai look a very different side this season in terms of personnel. Lasith Malinga and Lendl Simmons have been ruled out for the entire season due to knee and back injuries respectively. Kieron Pollard did not feature against Sunrisers in Hyderabad last night, with MI fielding three newcomers – Martin Guptill, Jos Buttler and Tim Southee – in their playing XI.
The most worrying aspect for the Mumbai Indians is the lack of a settled playing XI even after four games into the season. In every game so far, MI have fielded a different XI and yet not been able to deliver positive results. Rohit, who proclaimed that he would bat at the top of the order for the entire season, moved down to No. 4 against Sunrisers and failed again, albeit he was run-out after a miscommunication with Ambati Rayudu.
And Mumbai’s problems stem right at the top of the order, which has been a perennial predicament for them since the inaugural edition of the IPL. Last season, with Simmons forging a good partnership with Parthiv Patel, MI looked like they had unearthed a reliable and ideal opening combination. This season, though, the same problems have resurfaced and, looking around, MI do not look like having solid replacements either.
Looking beyond the negatives, however, Mumbai have yet to give a game to Corey Anderson, who can be a destructive batsman and does bowl good seam-ups too. I think it’s only a matter of time before the Kiwi southpaw gets a look in, though I am not entirely sure who he will come in place of. The bowling department has fared reasonably well so far and it has to continue coming up with the goods in Malinga’s absence.
We are still in the nascent stages of IPL 9, which is proving to be a very open contest. Except Gujarat Lions, all teams have lost at least one game and MI, despite having just two points to their name, are not too far behind. They take on the star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the Wankhede Stadium tomorrow, when they would look to bring this losing run to an end. The task will be far from straight-forward, though. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers are a dangerous duo and have already got runs under their belt this season. Without Malinga, the trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan have to step up to the plate and deliver.
Injuries have really hampered the Mumbai Indians’ so far, and it’s not hard to acknowledge the magnitude the losses of Simmons and Malinga are proving to be already. The MI batsmen have to start delivering the goods, which, barring on one occasion, they haven’t looked like doing. Only if the batsmen start putting runs on the board, will the defending champions be able to reach the playoffs for the seventh successive season.