The Mumbai Indians haven’t had the best of starts to their 2021 IPL campaign, but the fixtures moving to the UAE could prove to be a blessing in disguise.
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The most successful franchise in the history of the Indian Premier League. No other side has dominated the IPL like the Mumbai Indians. And despite sitting in fourth position, a long way off their best, the Indians have the experience to get it right when it matters the most.
After winning the 2019 edition by the skin of their teeth, and then dominating proceedings from the get-go in the 2020 instalment, the two-time defending champions have looked a shadow of their past during the first leg of the 2021 season. And if not for a blinder of an innings, where Kieron Pollard hit a devastating 31-ball 85 not out and snatched the match from the Chennai Super Kings‘ grasp, the gap between the top three and the rest would have been four points, and that in itself, would have been quite significant.
Moreover, Mumbai’s death bowling hasn’t worked out the way the team management would have hoped for. Jasprit Bumrah was able to keep the runs down, but at Chennai, where average scores were around the 130-150 region, Bumrah took six wickets from seven matches at an economy of 7.11, while their other speedster, Trent Boult, took eight wickets at an economy of 8.46.
The Indians are eyeing their third consecutive IPL title, but to win it come October 15, Rohit Sharma and his team will have to produce one of their magical campaigns yet again.
Rohit Sharma (c), Aditya Tare, Anmolpreet Singh, Anukul Roy, Dhawal Kulkarni, Hardik Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Quinton de Kock (wk), Rahul Chahar, Suryakumar Yadav, Chris Lynn, Mohsin Khan, Saurabh Tiwary, Trent Boult, Adam Milne, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Piyush Chawla, James Neesham, Yudhvir Charak, Marco Jansen, Arjun Tendulkar.
With that, let’s take a look at the SWOT Analysis of the defending champions, Mumbai Indians, and where they stand with respect to their competitors.
Compared to other squads, MI’s squad is pretty well-balanced, and without a shadow of a doubt, their biggest strength lies in their batting unit. The MI batting lineup simply oozes class and from numbers 1 to 7 they have genuine match-winners. Although one thing was quite evident during the first leg – their inability to counter quality spin bowling. Players like Rohit Sharma (250 runs) and Suryakumar Yadav (173 runs) showed the craft and temperament to negotiate brilliant spells of bowling, but the rest proved rather susceptible to it.
That said, one positive from their struggles against spin was that every single batter contributed at some point during the first leg, and if it can carry on to the UAE, where the pitches are expected to offer some assistance to the pacers and little purchase for spinners, the MI batters will be licking their lips because that’s something they thrive on.
Unlike Rohit Sharma, the MI batting lineup hasn’t been consistent enough for the team to stamp their authority. Yes, there has been the odd innings, but when 3-4 of your top 6 are failing every single match there must be some concern for the coaching staff and management.
Quinton de Kock accumulated 155 runs from six innings, of which one was a 70 not out, meaning the rest of the 85 runs came from five innings. The same goes for Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard and Suryakumar Yadav. MI have the best batting unit on paper, but their performances during the first leg suggested anything but that.
Rahul Chahar had a field day bowling in the dusty pitches of Chepauk and Feroz Shah Kotla as he took 11 wickets at an economy of 7.21, but playing in the UAE, where the spinners are less likely to get much purchase from the pitches, it will be interesting to see how Rohit and the management use their spinners.
Chahar is the only recognised spinner who is living up to his potential. MI have an all-rounder in Krunal Pandya and an experienced leggie in Piyush Chawla, but the potency in their bowling has been lacking for quite some time now, and this is where I fear the Mumbai bowling unit might struggle. They were finding it difficult to restrict teams in India and with question marks over the form and consistency of key personnel, the MI bowling attack might struggle against the top batting units in the UAE.
With the T20 World Cup just around the corner, places are up for grabs and there are many candidates from the Indian contingent alone. Players like Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan had dream starts to their international careers as the pair of them notched up personal milestones in their first-ever outing at the international arena. Both are in with a shout for making the final cut, and with the World Cup to be played later in the UAE, the second leg of IPL 2021 serves as a perfect seven-game audition to the Indian selectors.
One thing that has been overlooked in the recent past has to be the rise of Rahul Chahar. Team India, especially in the white-ball format, have been searching for that out-and-out spinner who could stifle the opposition batters and make breakthroughs whenever called upon. Chahar, for the last two seasons, has been doing just that. He has been in and out of the Indian set-up, and if he can keep up the same consistency and guile for the second half of IPL, he will be one of the first names for that Indian T20 World Cup squad.
In my opinion, the biggest threat to the Mumbai Indians would be injuries to their star bowler Jasprit Bumrah. The 27-year-old is playing a five-Test series against England and will be joining the Mumbai Indians camp along with captain Rohit Sharma and swashbuckling middle-order batter Suryakumar Yadav. But there is a fear of burning out with Bumrah, and it can prove to be a game-changer for India as well in their bid to win the upcoming T20 World Cup.
In case of Bumrah’s injury, the replacements at MI disposal are Dhawal Kulkarni, Anmolpreet Singh and Anukul Roy from the Indian contingent. They have decent options in their overseas ranks as well, but to bring in either Adam Milne or Nathan Coulter-Nile as a replacement would mean dropping one from Quinton de Kock, Kieron Pollard or Marco Jensen, who all proved crucial during the first leg of the season.
The Mumbai Indians have the experience and star potential to clinch their sixth overall and third title on the bounce, but unlike the previous seasons, their bench strength looks weaker at the moment and so does their middle-order. On paper, their first XI is the best out there, but the consistency has been lacking and, more importantly, they’ll have to play a minimum of nine games if they are to win the title this season, and playing the same eleven players every single game might prove a lot to ask for.