Call it astonishing, eccentric or just a case of ineptness, but their 80-run victory over Delhi Daredevils (DD) last Sunday, was just the second time this season Mumbai Indians (MI) registered a victory when batting first and setting a target. In the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Mumbai’s batsmen have let their side down on many occasions and are a major reason why the defending champions are in danger of not reaching the IPL playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Mumbai play Gujarat Lions (GL) in their last fixture, which they must win and win handsomely too, to possibly sneak into the IPL 2016 playoffs.
Having produced a complete display against Daredevils, should there be changes to Mumbai’s playing XI for the clash against Gujarat?
MI’s playing XI v GL
After a poor showing against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), we speculated Mumbai to make a few changes to their playing XI for the home clash against Delhi. I expected the bowling attack to be retained and the batting line-up to be changed a bit. What ensued was quite strange, given that Tim Southee has forged a great bowling partnership with his compatriot and national teammate Mitchell McClenaghan and together, they have made MI attack lethal this season.
Mind you, Harbhajan Singh and Jasprit Bumrah have not been at their best in this campaign, so Rohit Sharma and Mumbai have relied on McClenaghan and Southee, largely, for strangulating the opposition and picking wickets too. In addition to Southee, Jos Buttler is another overseas newcomer to the MI roster this season. The Englishman has played a couple of whirlwind knocks to get Mumbai over the line when they have chased targets, but Buttler has struggled against the spinners and not set the world alight, generally speaking, in his first IPL season.
So, although Martin Guptill was likely to return to the playing XI, having played just once previously against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), I felt he would come in for Buttler. But, as aforementioned, Buttler retained his place and Southee was the one sacrificed.
Guptill and Rohit gave Mumbai a good start – something which the Indians’ openers have failed to provide for a majority of the ongoing season – against Delhi and the New Zealander narrowly missed out on a half-century. He also was involved in that 98-run partnership with Krunal Pandya and complemented the burgeoning Baroda southpaw, who blazed his way to a 37-ball 86, really well.
Ahead of the clash against Gujarat, there is little necessity for Mumbai to change their playing XI for the second successive game. Yes, they need to win by a big margin and therefore, will probably opt to field first at Green Park in Kanpur if Rohit wins the toss. But even then, they have got the right kind of batsmen to play aggressively and score at a strike-rate of more than 150.00 if the need arises on Saturday, against Suresh Raina and company.
The batting order too, is likely to be the same from the victory over Delhi, against whom K Pandya was promoted to No. 3, a position where Ambati Rayudu has found quite a lot of success this season, followed by Kieron Pollard and Buttler. Nitish Rana will once again be a floater in that MI batting line-up.
Like Southee’s exclusion, Vinay Kumar’s inclusion was a major surprise, as the Karnataka medium-pacer had played just once before in this season and has rarely tasted success in MI colours, since making the switch from Eden Gardens to Wankhede ahead of IPL 2014. Because he is not quick, he doesn’t trouble the batsmen and has lost the art of swinging the ball too. But maybe his inclusion in the Mumbai playing XI for the last match was forced by the Visakhapatnam pitch, on which Mumbai lost by seven wickets to Kings XI. That wicket was bone dry and assisted the slow bowlers. The Mumbai think-tank might have thought that Vinay, with his variations in pace, would be more suited to the prevalent conditions.
In the match between Gujarat and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) last night, the wicket was totally ‘green’ and synonymous of the venue, ‘Green Park’. If the grass is going to stay there for Saturday night’s encounter, Mumbai must rethink whether they want to stick with Vinay. I would rather bring in someone like Nathu Singh, who is tall and thus can be a tricky customer to face up to. Of course, it would be a huge game for him to make his IPL and Mumbai Indians debut, but he, in my opinion, would be a better bet than Vinay.
Should-be Mumbai Indians’ playing XI v GL (in accordance with probable batting positions): R Sharma (C), M Guptill, K Pandya, K Pollard, J Buttler (WK), A Rayudu, N Rana, H Singh, M McClenaghan, J Bumrah and N Singh.
If the Mumbai batsmen can deliver, regardless of whether they bat first or chase a target, then the defending IPL Champions will have a good chance of beating the Lions, whose form has dwindled in the second half of this season. The MI bowling attack has fared well thus far, but needs to brace itself for a huge test against the dashing Dwayne Smith, buccaneering Brendon McCullum, the admirable Aaron Finch and not to forget, Raina too. The abovementioned playing XI is the one I would want the Indians to go in with, against Gujarat at the Green Park in Kanpur.