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Mumbai's dangerous games

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Mumbai_Indians_MI_IPL_CricketThe tenth edition of the IPL, the last before a fresh auction is held next year, has lived up to expectations. The Top 4 teams were not decided till the very last day of the league stage. The season has been intriguing indeed, thanks to contrasting performances from the teams. 

While Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders seem to have been losing momentum, Rising Pune Supergiant gained the same to make a late surge. They got rich dividends for the same as they defeated a ‘constantly changing’ Mumbai Indians side to book a place in their first ever IPL final.

Mumbai Indians didn’t have a perfect start to the tournament as they went down to their neighbours and current archrivals Rising Pune Supergiant, but were quick to turn things around. Their next three games were against the biggest teams in the IPL: Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore. And though the Mumbai Indians won the games, one thing remained constant. Their batsmen left things for others to do. Luckily, they always had one player who would stand up and perform every now and then, that might not necessarily be the case all the time.

They were up against the Gujarat Lions next, who were a striking contrast of themselves from last season. A weak bowling attack had caused enough trouble for them and the Mumbai Indians batsmen made the most of it with all the top order players contributing. The same feat was repeated against yet another weak bowling line-up of Kings XI Punjab before Mumbai’s batting problem resurfaced against the top-notch bowling unit of the Delhi Daredevils. Yet again, they had the liberty of someone standing up on that day. It was their bowlers who helped Mumbai defeat a reckless Delhi side.

As things continued, Mumbai were handed another defeat in the reverse fixture of the Maharashtra Derby and were plagued by poor application of the batsmen. In the next game, though Parthiv Patel got them the runs up top, he threw away his wicket to invite trouble. With others failing to contribute, they had to rely on a superb Jasprit Bumrah performance in the Super over to claim the victory.

Things did not change much and with the exception of the Delhi game, and possibly the Punjab game, batsmen failed to capitalize and left a lot for the bowlers to do. Some might argue it is a healthy sign that different players have stood up and taken responsibility at different times. There is no denying that. But the fact that batsmen haven’t been taking the onus on themselves up top might spell doom later on, just as it happened against the Rising Pune Supergiant in Qualifier-1.

This could be attributed to a strong batting line-up where the batters feel there is enough firepower below them, so they play over-attacking cricket. This mindset continues and trickles down and when they realize they are in trouble, it might be too late.

 

Before the 1st qualifier, Kieron Pollard was Mumbai’s top run scorer. Considering he usually bats at 5 or 6, it says a lot about the team’s top order. All the other teams have had batsmen from their top 3 or maximum 4 being the main run getters for them.

To add to this point, ever since Mumbai Indians’ qualification, there hasn’t been the same intensity in their play. While the Kolkata Knight Riders game might be speaking a different language, it was mostly down to the players who got their chance, wanting to prove a point. 

Mumbai Indians lost the momentum and the intensity at the wrong time, which cost them dearly in the 1st qualifier as well. It is imperative for the two time champions to pick that up a notch and go all out with real positive intent against fellow two time champions Kolkata Knight Riders.

Apart from an unusual occasion or two, Mumbai Indians’ bowling has mostly done a good job, defending not so big totals and restricting the opposition to low scores. Most of their losses could well be attributed to poor batting with lack of application. For their 2nd qualifier, it is imperative for their top batsmen to take responsibility and guide the team through.

The likes of Simmons, Rayudu and Rohit Sharma have to shoulder the responsibility to either put a big total on the board or chase it down smartly. Given how the Bengaluru pitch behaves, it is safe to say that the Mumbai Indians bowling will be in a good position to exploit it. This makes it even more important for their batsmen to apply themselves and curb playing a shot too many as that wicket behaves pretty differently. 

While the likes of Bhajji and Krunal have put brakes on the scoring rate, Mitchell Mcleanaghan, Bumrah and even Malinga have managed to pick wickets at important junctures in the game.

Qualifier-2 makes for a really interesting contest and despite Mumbai having done the double over the Knight Riders this season, they would need to get their A-game on the ground with positive intent and intensity to book a place in yet another final or they might see them being toppled by the Gautam Gambhir-led side.

 

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