IPL 2021: Onus on Mumbai Indians middle-order in Punjab Kings clash
It has been a tough grind for batsmen on a slow Chennai pitch, especially when the ball gets old. For Mumbai Indians, most glaring has been the lack of runs from Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya who have pulled off some amazing heists in the past. Barring Pollard’s unbeaten 22-ball 35 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, none of them have made any significant contributions with the bat. Pollard has scored 49 runs in four outings while Hardik and Krunal have scored 35 and 26 runs respectively. In all four matches, bowlers have kept Mumbai Indians in the game till the end—resulting in victories over Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad and last-over defeats against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals.
While the team management is not too concerned at the moment, skipper Rohit Sharma and coach Mahela Jayawardene have pointed out that the middle-order can do better than what they have done so far. “We can do better in the middle overs. The (Chennai) pitch is getting slower and slower, bowlers are always in the game till 20 overs. Even the seamers, it's not easy to get them away and the slowish nature makes it harder for the batter to slog straightaway,” Rohit had said after the victory over the Sunrisers.
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On the eve of the match against Delhi Capitals, Jayawardene had said: “On a given day, depending on the opposition how you approach can have that different variable. They are not unplayable wickets. They are good competitive wickets and adjusting to those challenges is always the key for any batsman. I think we've been consistent with that approach. It's been challenging but we have adapted pretty well. Sometimes we'll make mistakes and that's part of the game.”
Mumbai Indians play their last match in Chennai against the Punjab Kings on Thursday and will hope that the trio finds a way to get going. From there, MI play their next four matches in New Delhi, where the pitch shouldn’t be as sluggish as Chennai but it will still be on the slower side.
One thing that they can focus on straightaway is to curb their natural instincts and find a way to score those big runs—in conditions that don’t favour them—which will push the team total over par score.
The match against Sunrisers can be used as a template to achieve future targets. In that match, Pollard stayed till the end and his two sixes at the end off the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar helped MI push to a par total. MI scored 49 in the last five overs in that match but it has been a struggle in the other matches. They scored just 31 against the Royal Challengers, 38 against Knight Riders and 36 against the Capitals.
Trent Boult, who has done a wonderful job at the death alongside Jasprit Bumrah, is hopeful things will change. “The middle-order is not too pleased with how thing are going so far but I know the guys are hungry and desperate to put in a good performance in our last game in Chennai tomorrow,” said Boult during a media interaction on Thursday.
“The middle-order power has been a key ingredient to the Mumbai team. It’s pretty hard wicket (over here) to go out there and get boundaries from ball one… (team has been) speaking about giving an extra ball or two to themselves before trying to go big. Hopefully, we take advantage of the good starts (from here on),” the left-arm pacer said.
Boult practising with Dukes balls for England Test series, WTC
To keep himself ready for New Zealand’s two-match Test series against England starting on June 2 followed by the World Test Championship (WTC) against India from June 18-22, Boult is also practicing with the Dukes ball whenever time permits during the ongoing IPL.
With most of the New Zealand players featuring in the IPL flying straight to England at the end of the tournament, they won’t have much time to get used to playing with the red ball.
“It can be tricky, to be honest,” said Boult of adjusting from the shortest format to the longest. “Coming from playing T20 cricket, bowling lot of yorkers and slower balls, only four overs then moving straightaway into Test cricket is not easy. The World Test Championship is just around the corner as well. But I have played enough cricket to understand what’s needed to prepare (myself)…I have brought Dukes balls to practice over here in the nets, making sure I gets those overs up.”