Getting their opening pair right has always been tricky for Mumbai Indians. It has been no different in the ninth edition of the IPL.
The defending champions have already used three different combinations in four matches, not due to any game plan but in desperation. But a look at how they went about it during their two title campaigns shows that it was the strong opening department that laid the platform for the victories.
Injury to Lendl Simmons at the start of this edition upset Mumbai Indians’ plans to have a solid opening partner for skipper Rohit Sharma. After Simmons pulled out due to back injury, Parthiv Patel partnered Rohit. And in the last match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, it was Simmons’ replacement Martin Guptill who took first strike with Patel with Rohit dropping himself down to No 4.
The only significant contribution at the top came while chasing in the second match against Kolkata Knight Riders with Rohit leading with a match-winning 84 not out.
But in the last match against Sunrisers he dropped down the order to strengthen the middle-order, which has also been struggling to deliver. A lot will depend on whether Kiwi opener Guptill can solve Mumbai’s opening conundrum. He was dismissed for two in his first game against the Hyderabad side.
Mumbai will, however, take comfort from the fact that they were lucky that replacements in the past had hit the ground running and contributed to the team’s success.
Dwayne Smith made immediate impact after he came on board midway through the 2012 season, scoring a nine-ball 24 against Chennai Super Kings to guide Mumbai to a two-wicket win. The following season he played a crucial role in Mumbai winning their first IPL crown.
In 2014, Simmons was brought in halfway through the tournament. He ended up as the team’s highest scorer that season and was one of the key contributors in last year’s title success.
A look at the stats show that Mumbai have been successful when they have had a steady opening combination.
In 2013, they started the campaign with Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar but the experiment with the veterans lasted just five innings. With the former Australian skipper failing, Smith was promoted to partner Tendulkar. Smith played some key innings to help Mumbai win the title.
Last year too Simmons and Parthiv Patel gave steady starts for the rest of the batsmen to capitalise on. Of the team’s 15 innings, they opened together 13 times.