Since Sri Lanka successfully experimented with Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, opening the innings in limited overs cricket has never been about just seeing off the new ball. The successful teams have been those who have openers blazing away from the first ball. The introduction of Powerplay has only legitimised the formula.
The role of the top-two has become even more decisive in Twenty20. Most often, the success of a team is directly proportional to the success of their openers.This season, however, the roles have been reversed for Mumbai Indians. For Harbhajan Singh's team, the opening combination has become a game of musical chairs. In seven games, the captain has tried six combinations, but is yet to get it right. Thus it comes as no surprise that half-way into the league, the batting line-up is yet to settle down.
Only in their opening game did they have a satisfactory start and it resulted in an easy win over defending champions, Chennai Super Kings. In that game, Richard Levi partnered Sachin Tendulkar. However, However, MI's plans went haywire following Tendulkar's injury. Without the senior pro to advise him, Levi lost his way and MI its rhythm.
Mumbai have since unsuccessfully tried Aiden Blizzard, James Franklin, T Suman and Ambati Rayudu. Heading into their first game of the second half of IPL V on Sunday they are still undecided about their best option to partner Tendulkar. As they are braced to face Deccan Chargers, it's a question that has the MI team in a tizzy.
They had some success when Franklin opened with Tendulkar in the two games against Punjab, but the left-hander was reportedly ruled out due to injury against Delhi Daredevils.
If Franklin is fit, he should be back at the top but, even though he and Tendulkar have half-century partnerships in their two outings, the duo has failed to force the pace. Their 52-run association in Mohali came in 7.5 overs, and their 51-run stand at the Wankhede Stadium took 8.1 overs.
The problem is both are suited to play the sheet-anchor roles and that is not helping the team's interest in the Powerplay overs. Mumbai are also likely to miss the services of injured all-rounder Kieron Pollard.