IPL 2022: Mumbai Indians need to start building for the future

Now that their playoff hopes are almost over, MI need to give younger players more playing opportunities, writes Ayaz Memon

By Ayaz Memon

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Mumbai Indians young batsman Tilak Varma has been impressive this season. (PTI)
Mumbai Indians young batsman Tilak Varma has been impressive this season. (PTI)

Published: Sun 24 Apr 2022, 12:42 AM

After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against the Chennai Super Kings the other night, what could still be in store for Mumbai Indians in this edition of the IPL?

Almost nothing. Seven defeats from seven matches at the halfway stage have made it almost impossible for the five-time champions to turn things around.

To make the playoffs, the Rohit Sharma-led team would have to win all their remaining seven matches handsomely and hope that all the front-running teams on the points table suffer several major setbacks.

So many imponderables aligning in their favour would be beyond even the scope of divinity. Realistically, the best MI can hope for is to salvage as much pride as possible and also start building for the future by checking out the bench strength, giving younger players and new recruits more playing opportunities.

Even salvaging pride is easier said than done. In fact, against a team like Lucknow Super Giants, well-stocked with batting and bowling talent and functioning with good momentum so far in the tournament, MI have another severe challenge on hand.

Why MI have been stragglers this season has been highlighted repeatedly in these columns. Thursday’s match against CSK showed that very little has improved since their defeat in the opening match to Delhi Capitals. If anything, it’s got worse.

MS Dhoni’s spectacular last-over finish earned his team a fabulous victory against excruciating odds. But this also highlighted that Mumbai’s bowling, like the batting, had fallen on hard times. With Rohit falling for a duck, Kieron Pollard not getting a big score again and Suryakumar Yadav falling cheaply this time, Mumbai were in dire straits in the first half itself until young left-hander Tilak Varma rescued them with a fine half-century, showing sound temperament to go with rich talent.

For all the batting struggles, MI finished with 155 which wasn’t exactly a modest score on a pitch that had enough life for both pace and spin bowlers.

After cleaning up CSK’s top order, Daniel Sams finally showed his wicket-taking abilities. MI had a stranglehold on the match that only poor bowling or miraculous batting could release. Both these things happened. Mumbai’s bowlers suffered from a severe bout of nerves in the final overs, while Dhoni, supported ably by Dwaine Pretorius, hit vintage form to script a stunning win.

Such shortcomings in batting and bowling have hampered MI in all their matches. If these issues are not overcome swiftly, the result of tonight’s match can easily be predicted.

Lucknow have looked the most balanced side in the tournament along with Gujarat Titans. They had an off day against RCB in their last match, but with most batsmen and bowlers in excellent form otherwise, such setbacks are highly unlikely to be repeated unless the opponents are playing absolutely to potential.

That hasn’t been the case with Mumbai Indians in any match they’ve played this year. Apart from several key players being off-colour, motivating the entire group to keep their focus when all is lost will also make stiff demands on the team management. All told, beating LSG tonight is a tall order for the former champions.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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