Why Mumbai Indians’ losses could give India the jitters

  • Six players from India's World Cup bound squad play for the defending champions who have had a shaky start to the second half of the IPL.
Mumbai Indians batsman Ishan Kishan(PTI) PREMIUM
Mumbai Indians batsman Ishan Kishan(PTI)
Published on Sep 24, 2021 09:15 PM IST
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Exactly one month from Friday, India will play their opening match of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup against Pakistan. Their preparations for the prestigious tournament are limited to cricketers representing different franchises in the Indian Premier League (IPL). It’s a good thing and a bad thing.

The good part is the players will be match-ready with at least eight IPL games available in the second leg. The venues being the same, they will also be used to the conditions. The flip side is, in case of a loss of form, the player will have no time to recover. Given the lack of gap between the tournaments, India’s coaching staff will have no time to work with the players.

Hence, India’s best bet is for the full roster to hit form in the IPL and be in the right frame of mind for the World Cup. Given that Mumbai Indians (MI) are two-time defending champions, it’s no surprise that the India squad has maximum players from the most successful IPL side (five titles). Starting with Rohit Sharma, MI has six players in the India squad including Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan. But with MI looking vulnerable at the start of the UAE-leg after successive defeats this week, it could also become a case of having put all their eggs in one basket.

MI suffered a seven-wicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Thursday. It was after their 20-run loss to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the first game after resumption.

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From here on, the Indian team management will certainly be following their progress nervously.

While most MI players were automatic picks, there was a tight call in the case of two batters. Ultimately, the selectors preferred Yadav and Kishan at the expense of Delhi Capitals’ (DC) pair of Shreyas Iyer and Shikhar Dhawan.

Yadav and Kishan have made a subdued start to the UAE-leg. In two outings, Yadav has made 3 and 5; Kishan 11 and 14. In both of MI’s defeats, it’s the batting that flopped. CSK restricted them to 136 for eight and against KKR, MI huffed and puffed to 155/6.

Iyer missed out to Yadav because of his long lay-off due to shoulder surgery. But for these two games, Yadav has made full use of his opportunities. He impressed in every game he played for India with 360-degree range of strokes. The MI No. 3 doesn’t look out of touch but paid the price for bad shot selection in both innings, against CSK he mistimed a lofted shot off Shardul Thakur and on Thursday, Yadav paid the price for trying to flick a slower delivery from Prasidh Krishna from outside the off stump.

Kishan was preferred over Dhawan because of difference in their approach to batting. According to India team’s gameplan for the World Cup, they want the option of a batter who sets the pace from ball one. An explosive batter, Kishan fits in that gameplan. The left-hander displayed the right aggression scoring a 32-ball 56 and 42-ball 59 on his T20I and ODI debuts respectively.

The 2021 IPL has been a frustrating experience for him though with a total of 98 runs in seven matches at a strike rate of 88.28. Kishan averages 14 with a highest score of 28. What will make the India coach Ravi Shastri nervous is if Kishan loses his spot in the MI playing XI.

Given MI are languishing in sixth spot and face a do-or-die situation in the rest of their games to make the play-offs, they can’t afford to carry non-performers. But then, Kishan needs some opportunity to regain form ahead of the World Cup.

In contrast, DC are the form team, going to the top of the table with a strong performance against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Both Dhawan and Iyer got runs in their comfortable eight-wicket win. The left-handed opener scored 42 and in his comeback game, Iyer anchored the case with an unbeaten 47. The southpaw is on top of the run charts with 422 runs (131.87) in nine matches at an average of 52.75.

The India captain and coach will also be sweating that Hardik Pandya has sat out the first two games, due to what MI said is a niggle.

Pandya has hardly bowled after back surgery. His World Cup selection is based on the few overs he bowled in Sri Lanka. Hence, IPL is important for him to get back his bowling rhythm.

After Thursday’s game, MI bowling coach Shane Bond said the all-rounder will return to action in the next game, against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday. “We are hopeful that Hardik will be back for the next match. As I said, he has trained today and trained pretty well by all counts,” said Bond.

“We are obviously desperate to put him back out on the field. But… you have to also consider what the player wants. There’s also no point rushing him back to get injured to miss the rest of the tournament when we may have a chance to win it.”

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021