Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, with nine Indian Premier League titles between them, became the first two teams to be eliminated from the 2022 IPL playoff race. While Rohit Sharma’s MI became the first team to lose its first seven matches of an IPL season, M.S. Dhoni’s CSK endured a stop-start campaign, which never took off. Thoughts will now turn to the chance to swiftly address the shortcomings before the next edition.
All-rounders and tactical flexibility
Mumbai Indians spent Rs 23.25 crore on just two players: Ishan Kishan (Rs 15.25 crore) and Jofra Archer (Rs 8 crore). Much before the auction, a note by the interim BCCI CEO Hemang Amin to all the franchises had specified that Archer wouldn't be available for the tournament this year. That didn't prevent Mumbai Indians from roping in the England speedster, treating him as an asset for the future.
But in the hopes of pairing Archer with Jasprit Bumrah in IPL 2023, its bowling plans went awry which eventually hurt the team.
While Daniel Sams came good with the ball towards the end of IPL, his all-round stats [11 matches, 38 runs at 5.42; 13 wickets at 8.80] left plenty to be desired from someone expected to bowl four overs and finish games at 6 or 7. Hardik and Krunal Pandya, both released before the auction, fulfilled that role remarkably well for Mumbai in the past. Kieron Pollard's woefully poor performance further compounded that problem. Left-arm pacer Tymal Mills’ lack of incision with the ball — he played five matches and picked up six wickets at an economy of 11.17 — meant MI was also left grappling with its new-ball options. Previously, Trent Boult was the enforcer in IPL 2020 and the first half of IPL 2021, making regular inroads in the first six overs. But after he was let go, the responsibility fell on Jaydev Unadkat, Sams and Mills, who struggled to deliver.
MI felt the absence of a quality spinner in the middle overs, with Murugan Ashwin and Mayank Markande being their only Indian options and Fabian Allen as an allrounder. In hindsight, Mumbai could've gone harder after Yuzvendra Chahal; Rajasthan Royals outbid Mumbai to pick him for Rs 6.5 crore. It had problems in the batting department, too. While Ishan struggled with the bat, captain Rohit Sharma looked under pressure throughout and as a result, the opening partnership never really got going.
And by splurging nearly half its purse — its total purse was Rs 48 crore (after retention) — on the Ishan-Archer duo, MI was forced to show restraint while finalising other signings, leading to a lack of options and tactical flexibility.
However, the team’s head coach Mahela Jayawardene believes that the side failed to take control of crucial moments. “Having the quality that we have in the squad, yes, you have to be brutally honest, we haven’t played good cricket…” he said.
For a five-time champion with an incredibly strong backroom staff, one expected better planning and backup options.
But it's not all gloomy as the newly acquired Tilak Varma, Tim David and Dewald Brevis have promised a brighter 2023 with impact performances. Given the competitive nature of IPL, Mumbai Indians could usher in a few changes next season.
Injury casts selection riddle
Chennai Super Kings’ season was impacted by injuries. The defending champion bought back the players who have done well for it and retained its core. It spent a jaw-dropping Rs 14 crore on Deepak Chahar, the first player ever to be bought by CSK for over Rs 10 crore in an auction. But Chahar was ruled out of the 2022 IPL with a back injury. His absence hurt CSK, especially in the PowerPlays with all four venues, especially Wankhede Stadium, providing appreciable movement off the pitch and in the air with the new ball. Chahar's economy rate while at CSK is 7.61, with 42 wickets in 58 innings during the first six overs.
New Zealand quick Adam Milne’s hamstring injury and Chris Jordan's ordinary showing in four matches further crippled CSK’s overseas options in the bowling department. However, youngsters Mukesh Choudhary and Simarjeet Singh, entrusted with the new ball this season, gave a good account. The captaincy saga midway through the season did not help either. M.S. Dhoni returned as the Chennai Super Kings captain, with Ravindra Jadeja stepping down from the position after eight games in charge. Jadeja, whose performances with the ball and at No. 7 were middling at best (116 runs in 10 innings at 19.33, five wickets at an average of nearly 50), was eventually ruled out of IPL 2022 with bruised ribs, further deflating an already gasping season.
A common concern
If there's one thing that separates MI and CSK from the rest, it's their loyalty towards their longest-serving match-winners. However, that’s also been their Achilles’ heel this year. For MI, Pollard's had his least productive IPL. In 11 games, he has 144 runs at an average of 14.40 and a strike rate of 107.46 — his lowest strike rate in any IPL season. Although MI rested him for its last three matches, a misfiring Pollard meant MI suffered a power-hitting malfunction at the death. Tim David was surprisingly benched after lean outings in his first two matches. But since his return, he has made 173 runs in six matches at a strike rate of 200-plus, showing MI why it invested Rs 8.25 crore in him. MI would want him to carry out the job that Pollard did with such distinction for more than a decade.
Likewise, with CSK, a team that suffered from tepid starts — save a handful of games — the lack of firepower between overs 16-20 meant, more often than not, it struggled to make up for the slowness of its top-order. The addition of Shivam Dube, who enjoyed a big payday at the mega auction, was supposed to add more heft to the middle order. But the all-rounder flattered to deceive, save an unbeaten 95 against his old franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first leg. Dwayne Bravo and Ambati Rayudu returned to CSK for Rs 4.4 crore and Rs 6.75 crore. While the two have had stellar roles in CSK’s title-winning runs, looking back, maybe CSK could've tried harder to rope in an established hard-hitter to address its finishing woes.
Chennai pulled out of the race for Liam Livingstone as the bid rapidly soared past Rs 4 crore and nearly acquired Rovman Powell's services before being pipped by Delhi Capitals, who got him for Rs 2.8 crore. CSK also bid aggressively for Romario Shepherd, raising the paddle to Rs 5 crore before pulling out.
(With inputs from Shayan Acharya)
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