Sunday 27 April 2014 

Comment - What Is Going Wrong For The Mumbai Indians?

There has been precious little for the Mumbai Indian fans to shout about this season
There has been precious little for the Mumbai Indian fans to shout about this season
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

Having entered the fold as defending champions, being the only winless side after three games was not the start Mumbai Indians would have envisaged - while what will really heighten the concern is that in each of those games they were beaten convincingly.

History means little

Such is the nature of the IPL that past achievements count for very little, particularly a season such as this where there has been such significant upheaval. Yes there was the opportunity to retain five players - as Mumbai and several others did - but a large proportion of teams have completely remodelled their unit.

Form

Make no qualms about it, Twenty20 cricket is massively affected by form and right now Mumbai don’t possess very much of it, particularly in regards to batting. Michael Hussey with a current strike rate of 57 is somewhat short of the touch that saw him score more runs than anybody else in 2013, while much vaunted big hitters Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson are significantly short of their best.

The Dwayne Smith factor

Persistently during these early skirmishes Mumbai have struggled to get substantial starts, with their top three lacking the same firepower and form that other sides are able to call on. This raises the question of just why Dwayne Smith was not retained, a point being rammed home by the fact that the West Indian is only second to Glenn Maxwell on the run scoring list and at the same with a strike rate of 144.

Hussey, his replacement at the top of the order, is unquestionably a high quality player but not the explosive performer in the Smith mould that Mumbai crave.

Unconducive surfaces

The opening exchanges of this IPL have been typified by power hitting rather than canny bowling, which doesn’t suit a Mumbai side who possess one of the better bowling combinations but a batting unit short on fire.

Such have been the surfaces in the UAE that scores as high as 150 have proven incredibly challenging to defend, even for an attack such as Mumbai’s. With Mumbai’s floundering top four who can only boast a combined career strike rate of 125, generating scores in excess of 150 is proving near on unattainable - particularly with Pollard and Anderson misfiring.

Rohit Sharma’s men can only hope the return to India will lead to more conductive surfaces and hope that by then they are not already out of the running.

The wrong combinations

With just four out-and-out batsman in their squad Mumbai have been left with little room for manoeuvre, while in Pollard and Anderson they have acquired two players who fill virtually the same role.

Bizarrely their bowling stocks are vast, so much so that Krishmar Santokie who shone in the World Twenty20 is yet to get a game. The decision to snap up Anderson, who at the time was flavour of the month is one that will have to be questioned. The New Zealander is undoubtedly an excellent performer when on song but a top order batsman would have surely been a more suitable choice - especially considering Mumbai already own Pollard.

The make-up of Mumbai’s squad means that there is nowhere to turn in regards to a solution to their batting woes, other than just to hope the likes of Pollard and Anderson can regain their best. Ben Dunk is possibly the only gamble they could take and does boast a strike rate higher than any of the top four, but historically Mumbai have not been risk takers.

Again that batsman oversight…

The impact of Mumbai’s sparse batsman recruitment simply cannot be undermined. What is perhaps most disappointing is they failed to take a gamble on a plethora of young overseas batsman, for instance recruiting say Quinton de Kock or even the completely ignored duo of Alex Hales and Kushal Perera would have offered them an alternative option to enhance that timid top order.

That they didn’t retain Glenn Maxwell looks a glaring error but in fairness to Mumbai they were perhaps not to know quite how destructive he would become in this edition of that tournament, nonetheless there were signs prior to the auction of his obvious talent and had Mumbai been proactive a right to match card might have been worthwhile on the Australian.

Their rigid one dimensional work in the auction means Mumbai have been left without a plan B and with Plan A not working they have been left in a more than sticky situation.

Rohit at four

With Mumbai clearly struggling in those opening overs it remains an issue of bewilderment that Rohit Sharma persistently bats himself down at number four - despite opening the innings relatively successfully for India in this form of the game.

Sharma is both the only player within the group to have scored a fifty thus far and possess a strike rate higher than 109 - if Mumbai are to improve they must maximise his time in the middle.

© Cricket World 2014