If you are watching IPL for the first time, you will not believe if I say Mumbai Indians are the defending champions and also the current winners of the Champions League – and for justifiable reasons too. After 4 games, Mumbai Indians are languishing at 8th position without a single win to their credit.
What’s going wrong? Many say their team looks low on T20 talent. I beg to differ. One of their bowlers (Malinga) is part of the the winning squad of the recently concluded World T20. Mr. Cricket himself (Hussey) plies his trade for Mumbai. The hottest prospect in T20 is in the squad (Corey Anderson). One of the most gifted players in the Indian team is the captain of Mumbai (Rohit Sharma). Indian cricketers who have served their country diligently in the recent past (Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh) have 8 crucial overs between them. Include the wily Pragyan Ojha and the slinga Malinga and there are 16 overs of tight and attacking bowling. Yes, they have lost players like Maxwell (now playing for Punjab), Dinesh Karthik (Delhi), Dwayne Smith (Chennai) this season due to IPL auction and the retention rules. But that’s the beauty of the game. You lose some players, but you also gain some. The replacements are equally talented; it’s just that they haven't performed well this season.
Mumbai Indians have to deep-dive to reverse the sorry trend. They have the biggest fan base of all IPL teams and most aren’t happy with the string of losses. Something’s got to give. Some harsh decisions have to be made for the betterment of the team. Here are the 4 things Mumbai Indians need to do – ASAP:
- Replace Michael Hussey with Ben Dunk: If your player is not performing, you ought to replace him. How difficult is it for anyone to understand this statement? Michael Hussey has been phenomenal while playing with Chennai Super Kings. But that was last season. This season he has been ordinary, at best. He is needed to lay the foundation as an opener. That hasn’t happened yet. Sending him in the middle order was counter-productive against Delhi. What Mumbai terribly needs at the moment is a steady T20 opening partnership to lay the foundation for the big hitters to come and do their work. Do they have a replacement opener? Yes – Ben Dunk. An Australian who has been in great nick in the Big Bash and scored some quick-fire runs as an opener. What’s more, he can double up as a Wicket-Keeper too! There’s no harm trying someone new and experimenting. At worse, the results aren’t going to improve. If Ben Dunk fails, replace him. After all, the league position empowers the team to try out innovative (and at time, silly) things.
- Change the opening pair: Ben Dunk should team up with arguably the best batsman Mumbai Indians have at their disposal. And that’s the captain himself, Rohit Sharma. Yes, he is erratic at times. He is known to give away his wicket when starting to strike form. But you have to use the best resources available to you at their best positions. Rohit Sharma has been opening for team India. Opening against Delhi (despite the unfortunate run-out) should be just the beginning. Rohit Sharma and Ben Dunk will also provide a right and left hand combination at the top. Rohit Sharma can play a waiting game (something expected from Hussey) and Ben Dunk will go for the jugular.
- Send Kieron Pollard at No 4: This is a perennial argument that the fans of Mumbai Indians have always lost. For reasons unknown, Pollard has been held back in the line-up. He usually comes in the last 5-6 overs when Mumbai needs to up the ante. Pollard is expected to wield his batting wand to score those biggies. Mumbai Indians consider him as a game-changer (and for rightful reasons). What they forget is that he, like any other batsman, needs time to get his eye in. And in an innings of 20 overs, he may not have that luxury of settling in the middle. Bringing him at #4 will allow him that luxury. If Mumbai treats him as a game-changer, he needs to move higher up the order. Pollard can be for Mumbai Indians what Maxwell is for Kings XI Punjab.
- Utilize Corey Anderson / Ambati Rayadu / Aditya Tare based on the situation: Corey Anderson is a middle order batsman. He can lay into the bowling line-up just the same way as Pollard. In more ways than one, Pollard and Anderson are similar. Let Anderson do what Pollard is supposed to do – finishing. Ambati Rayadu is flexible enough to play anywhere in the top 6. He can come in ahead of Anderson if there’s a collapse or can drop down the order if there are only few overs remaining. If Ben Dunk loses his wicket, Tare can come in to continue the momentum. Rohit Sharma’s dismissal can bring in Rayadu to rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard ticking. This will also ensure the opposition captain needs to alter his strategy based on whose coming next.
All is not lost – yet. At least mathematically, things can still go Mumbai Indians’ way. T20 is known to be an unpredictable game. A string of losses can be followed by a string of victories. A change of scenery (back home in India for their next match) could also swing the pendulum their way.