IPL 2021: Mumbai batsmen need to raise their game
The defending champions are skating on thin ice to make it to the playoffs this season
Mumbai Indians beat Delhi Capitals in last year’s IPL final with consummate ease, but a year later things may not be so easy. In fact, the defending champions are skating on thin ice to make it to the playoffs this season. It could get even more problematic if they fail to win on Saturday.
Delhi have looked a better side than in 2020. There is more consistency in team effort even if the top-order has been lukewarm in the second phase. The bowling department has made amends with superb efforts in almost every match. Overall, there is an evident intensity of effort to win the title for the first time.
Rishabh Pant retained as captain despite Shreyas Iyer’s return to the side, has shown fine tactical nous to stymie sceptics who thought he was still too young for the responsibility.
Pant, however, would certainly like to make more substantial contributions with the bat, particularly with Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw not showing the same verve and form they did in the first phase.
The experiment with Steve Smith did not quite work out, even though the former Australian captain got runs in the only match he’s played in this phase. Shreyas Iyer and Pant have looked the best among frontline batsmen. With support from all-rounders Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, Delhi will be looking at Iyer, Pant and Shimron Hetmyer to take the team to a rich score.
Delhi’s undoubted strength in the past fortnight has been the varied and incisive bowling attack. Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and the young Avesh Khan have been brilliant.
Ashwin and Axar have also come into the reckoning with pitches in UAE playing slow and low.
Much like Delhi, Mumbai have also suffered because of their misfiring top-order in the past fortnight. But there has been one key difference between the two teams.
While Mumbai have won only one of their four matches played since the resumption of the tournament, Delhi have lost only one.
With Rohit missing the first couple of games, Mumbai were without their talismanic player and this showed in the effort and results.
The failure of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, who had forced their way into the India T20 squad on the back of strong performances last year and in the first phase of this season, has also hampered Mumbai in UAE.
Kishan, in fact, has lost his place in the playing XI.
After a poor start, Hardik Pandya came into his own in the previous match with some exotic strokeplay. Supported by Kieron Pollard, the aggressive all-rounder stemmed the growing sequence of defeats with a match-winning knock against Punjab Kings.
Mumbai’s bowlers, led by the brilliant Jasprit Bumrah, have been superb. But their batsmen need to raise their game.
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator
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