Pune, April 8
IPL 2022 marked the start of a new era in the history of the tournament. With two new teams in Lucknow Super Giants and Gujarat Titans apart from a mega auction, the eight-team competition was upgraded to 10. After 15 matches, the newbie teams have done well, though it is still early days in the competition.
Mumbai Indians, the five-time winners of the league, have made their usual slow start by losing their first three matches to Delhi Capitals (by four wickets), Rajasthan Royals (by 14 runs) and Kolkata Knight Riders (by five wickets).
But after Kolkata's Pat Cummins stunned them with a 14-ball fifty, alarm bells may well ring in the camp now that in a 10-team competition, there is very little margin for error.
They did enter playoffs in 2014 after losing the initial five matches and even won the trophy in 2015 after losing the first four matches in the season.
But 2022 seems to be a different one. One could sense from Rohit Sharma's tone after Cummins carnage that he wasn't in his usual calm and chilled self while speaking to the broadcasters.
In all three matches, Mumbai have put out sparking individual performances but the side hasn't fired as a collective unit to bag two points in the season.
If in the second half of IPL 2021, where batting performances prevented them from reaching playoffs, it is the bowling in the first three games which has let them down.
With no Jofra Archer, Mumbai's bowling has been largely dependent on pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah (three wickets at economy rate of 8.32) apart from Tymal Mills (six wickets at economy rate of 9.90) and leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin (four wickets at economy rate of 7.10).
It is the rest of bowling line-up comprising Daniel Sams (one wicket at economy rate of 12.63), Basil Thampi (three wickets at economy rate of 9.50), and with some occasional chipping in from Kieron Pollard (one wicket at economy rate of 11.50) which have proved to be the weak links.
Bowling coach Shane Bond feels that bowlers going for big runs in an over is something which has hurt Mumbai's bowling plans.
"It's been a real mixed bag from us I suppose from a bowling unit. You look at the last game; the first 10 overs were fantastic. We had a couple of overs that got away from us.
"It's been a little bit of a pattern for us, that we've done some really good stuff, we've taken out a number of the big players exactly how we thought we would. But when the game's been in the balance, we've gone for some overs of 20-plus. And when you go for overs of 20-plus, then you end up losing matches."
In the opening game against Delhi Capitals, Lalit Yadav and Axar Patel took 15 runs off Bumrah in the 16th over, 13 runs off Thampi's last over and 24 runs off Sams in the 18th over.
In their second match against Rajasthan Royals, Thampi was smashed for 26 runs by Jos Buttler in the fourth over of the first innings.
Ashwin was hit for 21 runs in the 11th over while Pollard conceded 26 runs in 17th over. In their match against Kolkata, Mills and Bumrah conceded 14 and 12 runs twice while Sams was carted for 35 runs by Cummins.
In their batting, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma and Dewald Brevis (in one appearance) have shown good show. But with no Quinton de Kock and Pandya brothers in the mix, captain Sharma has to step up with the bat.
Scores of 41, 10 and 3 don't do justice to Sharma's famed match-changing skills with the bat.
"All three games that we've played, we've done some really good things. It's just that those little moments, and that indication, you know an individual has to understand, in that period of time when the game is happening. There will be an indication that 'this is the over'. What we do in that over, those little, little things — that we need to try and squeeze that, and get it towards our side. Get that momentum towards our side," were Sharma's encouraging words in the dressing room.
If Mumbai take Sharma's words of seizing the little moments in the game seriously, then they might find the path which would take them out of their bowling issues as well as the skipper to find runs consistently.
With matches against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Punjab Kings and Lucknow Super Giants lined up, Mumbai can't afford to have any more slip-ups now.