IPL 2021 in the United Arab Emirates: the much-vaunted stick of the five-time champion Mumbai Indians is their Achilles heel
What happened to the Indians of Mumbai? They have lost all three matches of Phase 2 of the 2021 IPL. At the moment, Mumbai cannot do anything right. And their qualification for the playoffs is in jeopardy – an unlikely scenario for the five-time winners.
Mumbai is the exact same team that won the IPL 2020 in the UAE. A team that has dominated the tournament by winning most of its matches overall. Rohit Sharma’s side even turned the final against the Delhi Capitals into a one-sided affair.
So what has changed? Nothing. They are essentially the same team. Player for player, they are on the same side. What has changed is performance. The batsmen who won the game last year have become abject failures. And it hurt a lot. So badly they couldn’t keep up the fight totals or didn’t have enough on the board for the bowlers to defend themselves.
At the core of Mumbai’s miserable streak is batting failures. Even in India, they started the tournament with a spate of uneven performance. Kock’s openers Rohit Sharma and Quinton were generally well placed, good enough to capitalize on the power play. It’s the middle order that’s giving coach Mahela Jayawardene a big headache.
Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan are in the doldrums. Yadav’s sublime punches and Kishan’s bravado were the hallmarks of Mumbai’s wins in Season 13. It was lacking this year. This is why the stick goes into a spin shortly after the power play.
Both were so good at IPL 2020 that Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya only had to show up at the slog overs to plant a few sixes. This is no longer the case. The big hitters now go into a fit when the pressure builds. And that has been a recipe for failure.
Only once has Pollard shown a glimpse of his destructive staff. His 87 of 34 balls against the Chennai Super Kings in Delhi is one of the highlights of the 2021 IPL. We didn’t see a good Pollard hitting after that. And Hardik Pandya has been busy healing his wounds.
So what can Mumbai do? Ditch Yadav and Kishan? It is not easy. They are classy players, and a good round will put them back in the rhythm. But when will this happen? Can Mumbai afford to risk it? The playoff bus may well be long gone by the time the two get in shape.
It’s clear the Mumbai staff will need surgery, and that must keep Jayawardene awake. He’s been there and knows his players well. So I’m sure we’ll see his hand when Mumbai meet the Punjab Kings on Tuesday.
Let me put myself in Jayawardene’s shoes. Here is what I would do. Bring Saurabh Tiwary to slot # 3 to anchor the sleeves. Pollard at # 4, followed by Yadav and Kishan. The Pandya brothers, Hardik and Krunal, can handle death.
Why don’t I let Yadav and Kishan down? Because they are a class act. I would like them to regain their form before the T20 World Cup. At least one of them will be part of India’s starting XI. It would therefore be prudent to give them the opportunity to regain their form without harming Mumbai’s chances of placing in the bottom four of the 2021 IPL.
Let’s wait until Tuesday to see how Jayawardene and Sharma rearrange the stick. If Mumbai fails to resolve their batting issues, they could go the CSK route last year: to the basement of the points table. It would be a shame. The five-time champions don’t deserve this.