IPL 2021: Mumbai can't afford to trip up against SRH

Ishan Kishan (left) and Hardik Pandya during a training session in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Mumbai Indians Twitter
Ishan Kishan (left) and Hardik Pandya during a training session in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Mumbai Indians Twitter

Mumbai - Rohit Sharma's side have lacked cohesiveness and sharpness

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Thu 7 Oct 2021, 9:32 PM

Sunrisers Hyderabad’s unexpected win over Royal Challengers Bangalore will have sowed seeds of apprehension in Mumbai Indians about how to tackle them in this crucial match. It’s not only a do-or-die situation for the defending champions, but they also have to win by a whopping margin to catapult them into the playoffs if Kolkata Knight Riders beat Rajasthan Royals.

As I write this, the KKR-RR match is still to be played. But irrespective of what happens in that, Mumbai Indians must mull at what has gone wrong for them, which has brought things to this pass, to ensure they don’t trip up in their last encounter of the league stage.

While SRH have been thoroughly disappointing all season, once in a while they have woken up from their slumber to cause an upset, as they did against a complacent RCB. In any case, the nature of T20 cricket is unpredictable so no team, however, strong, can take things lightly.

MI have let themselves down in IPL 2021. Flush with superb talent and an excellent track record over the past few seasons, their efforts this year have lacked cohesiveness and sharpness. They’ve been unable to sustain a high level of performance consistently which has led to three defeats from five matches and their current predicament.

Six players in the 15-member India squad for the T20 World Cup are from MI: Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav, Rahul Chahar and Jasprit Bumrah. This shows the depth of talent in the side. But statistics for the second phase of this season also highlight why MI have been struggling.

Rohit has only 113 runs from five innings, Ishan Kishan 84 from four, Pandya 65 from four, Yadav the most disappointing with a meagre 62 from six. While the dismal top order batting is the major cause for MI’s failures, the bowling has had problems too. Pandya hasn’t bowled at all, young leg spinner Chahar has only two wickets conceding 118 runs. Only Bumrah, with 13 wickets for 179 runs, has lived up to reputation.

MI put up an intimidating performance in their last game against error-prone RR, who looked bereft of confidence and tactics, to boost their Net Run Rate. They will have to do even better against SRH to reach the last four. While the Hyderabad team has been consistently below par, it’s a no pressure situation for them, and could help the players perform freely.

SRH have lacked depth and heft in batting. Apart from skipper Kane Williamson and intermittently Jason Roy, no one else in the top and middle order has looked the part. And even Williamson, by his own high standards, has been tepid. This has put greater responsibility on bowlers who’ve strived hard but with limited success because of poor totals to defend.

On Wednesday, however, SRH’s bowlers virtually pulled off a coup. Rashid Khan and Jason Holder were marvelous as always. What made the difference was Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, having a lean time, coming good with a superb last spell, and young Umran Malik showing once again why he might be the next big thing with his searing pace, that had RCB batsmen hopping.

All things considered, while making it to the playoffs impossible is not impossible for MI, the odds are heavily stacked against them.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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