Even in their best of seasons, Mumbai Indians are slow starters. And it continued that way in the first half of the 2021 season. The slow wickets at the Chepauk in their first five games tested the resolve of their fierce hitters. With scores ranging from 131 to 159 on the slow wickets of the Chepauk, Mumbai managed to eke out only two wins in these games.
Their style of play and hence their fortunes changed upon landing in Delhi when they first beat Rajasthan chasing down 172 with ease. And a couple of days before the tournament fell apart due to the pandemic, they played out the game of the season so far chasing down 219 against Chennai on the last ball.
With each passing game, the first half started taking a predictable path with a clear difference in quality between the top four and the bottom four sides. Till Mumbai did not find a rhythm, the one spot the bottom five sides seemed to be fighting for was the fourth position. But as things stand, a side that knows how to win trophies, let alone matches, occupy that last qualification spot.
The real strength of Mumbai is the largely consistent structure of their playing XI. They have specific players for all the roles and thus are able to find answers for almost every situation. Even during the difficult period in the first half, the experienced top-order managed to hold the team together. They averaged more than any other side during the first six overs, laying a platform for their hitters well.
With the number one all-format bowler in their rank, they fought hard even when the opposition was not under any scoreboard pressure. Rahul Chahar returned with exceptional figures of 4/27 and 3/19 in two of their wins against Kolkata and Hyderabad early on.
The younger Chahar recently pipped Yuzvendra Chahal in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup. Working in his favour is his image of being a wicket-taker. Since 2020, no other Indian spinner has taken wickets more frequently than Rahul Chahar, which makes him Mumbai's ace up their sleeve.
One of the biggest concerns for Mumbai would be the form of a player who is the backbone of their side. Hardik Pandya has been struggling this year. Though he is fit to ball again which adds to the balance of the side. He has not been at his usual destructive self with the bat.
Another player whose form will give Mumbai some headache is Ishan Kishan. On sluggish wickets in the first half, we managed only 73 runs in five games at a strike rate of 83. Mumbai dropped him in the subsequent two games.
A positive for the defending champs is that Kishan was their leading run-scorer (516) and tournaments leading six-hitter (30) in IPL 2020. His performance in Arab nation last year might allow him to reboot himself.
Due to the inconsistent middle-order, Mumbai lost a wicket every 16.4 balls in the first half of the IPL. This was the lowest among all sides. They would need a significant improvement when the tournament resumes if they hope to complete a three-peat.
On the bowling front, Mumbai will have to figure out their third-pacer pretty early into the season, something they could not identify in India. Given his pace, that option can be Adam Milne who finished as the leading wicket-taker (12) in the inaugural season of the Hundred.
None. Mumbai are the only side that have the same bunch of players who were involved in the first half representing them.
How will they feel about moving to UAE?
If you were to ask this question in April, the answer from the Mumbai loyalists would have been: Anything outside Chennai would do. They would be happiest of the sides regarding the move to UAE given their success last year.
In case your memory needs a refresh on what happened last season, Mumbai not only lift the IPL trophy for a record fifth time with ease, they did so by thumping sides in both departments.
Mumbai have four wins in seven games. A repeat of this would be enough to ensure a playoff spot. On probability, they have a 78% of going through. But the position of strength lies in finishing in top two which would be the actual aim of the four sides currently leading the table.
Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Adam Milne, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah