Just when Mumbai Indians looked a hop skip and jump away from semifinal contention in 2016 IPL, they chose to dig another ditch for themselves. Playing the first game on their new home at Vishakhapatnam, MI lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad after taking up the chase of 178 runs required for their fourth victory on trot. But MI could barely cross half of that target to lose by a whopping 85 runs. Three days later at Bengaluru, MI did another summersault and defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore on their home turf. With 6 wins from 11 matches, Mumbai’s chances for playoff phase will now be dictated by their performance in remaining games. Nothing can be taken for granted in this format but if Mumbai could avoid committing needless mistakes and improve their fielding performance, they still have a winning combination.
In the eight teams of the 2016 IPL season, there are five captains, who open the innings for their teams. Of them, arguably, Sunrisers’ David Warner is the most seasoned and he likes to give his team the best start. If SRH is the current table-topper, much of that credit is attributable to Warner’s performance as batsman and captain. Apart from scoring runs, Warner also brings the air of confidence among his colleagues. The other day, Shikhar Dhawan admitted that he drew inspiration from his team captain. Against MI on May 8, Warner and Dhawan laid a solid foundation before Yuvraj Singh came on to provide a late surge. SRH finished on 177/3 and Mumbai Indians needed to score around 9 per over for victory.
But Mumbai responded with one of their worst target chases. Water scarcity in Maharashtra had forced Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiants to adopt Vishakhapatnam as their new home venue and it was the first match at Vizag. MI began by losing both openers by the start of the second over. Ambati Rayudu and Krunal Pandya hung around for a while before Nehra claimed Rayudu and Jos Buttler in his second over. Two balls later, Mumbai lost Krunal Pandya as well to be reduced to a pathetic 30/5 in 5th over. With most batsmen back in the dungeon, Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya managed to take Mumbai to 50 before the two of them also departed to make it 50/7 at the start of the 10th over. While the match was literally lost for Mumbai, Harbhajan Singh provided a semblance of respectability with a 22-ball unbeaten 21. Mumbai Indians lost by 85 runs after being bundled out for 92 in the 17th over and it was one of their softest defeats in the competition.
Three days later on May 11, Mumbai played Royal Challengers Bangalore at Bengaluru. Despite the debacle against SRH, Rohit Sharma still decided to field after winning the toss. RCB openers came out to bat on the same pitch, where they had amassed 227/4 in their first game against SRH on April 12. However, every day in life is different and for the first time this IPL season, Virat Kohli fell on a single-digit score. Big man Chris Gayle soon followed his captain and 17/2 in 4th over didn’t bode well for RCB. The two New Zealanders Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee had given MI a rousing start but Rohit knew about RCB’s amazing batting depth. With AB de Villiers still around, nothing was impossible. But MI bowlers applied pressure and Lokesh Rahul and de Villiers could only add 43 for the third wicket by 10th over. The drop in run-rate pressurized RCB batsmen and Krunal Pandya clinched the prize wicket of ABDV for the second time this IPL season. Rahul was the only one, who hung around and kept adding to the score despite some tight bowling and fielding by MI. Shane Watson was run out and Sachin Baby provided a late surge with a 13-ball 27 cameo as RCB finished at 151/4 in their 20 overs.
Mumbai had to be careful in their chase after the Vizag fiasco but they lost Parthiv Patel early. However, Rohit Sharma kept his head down and along with Ambati Rayudu carried on until he fell in the 10th over. At 60/2, Mumbai’s scoring rate was very low and RCB bowlers took advantage of Rayudu’s sluggishness and pressurized him. After Rohit, Nitish Rana had come to the crease but he too was bogged down. Mumbai’s chase became labored with boundaries drying up and Rayudu and Rana not being allowed much leeway. Rana fell in the 13th over. By the time Kieron Pollard came out, the asking rate had mounted to 0ver 10 runs and Rayudu still couldn’t get going. Lot of people may not agree with this author’s view, but it was Rayudu’s dismissal at the start of 16th over that really opened the floodgates for Mumbai. If Rayudu had consumed some more balls, it would have become too difficult for Pollard and Jos Buttler. As it transpired, Pollard used his big-hitting prowess by scoring 35 off 19 and Buttler blasted Bangalore bowlers for an 11-ball 29 that won the match for Mumbai with 8 balls remaining.