MI tied in knots as it takes on RCB

MI’s terrific win, chasing 188 against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens, should have spurred it to get its act together, but it came a cropper, posting a mere 143 against the Gujarat Lions and 142 against the Sunrisers.

As of now only left arm seamer Mitchell McClenaghan has bowled smartly for Mumbai Indians.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Mumbai Indians (MI) has taken quite a beating in the ongoing Indian Premier League. The two-time champion has floundered thrice in four matches and Monday’s thrashing at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad – by seven wickets at the Uppal Stadium -- was only symptomatic of its mediocre display since the opening bout against Rising Pune Supergiants.

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MI’s terrific win, chasing 188 against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens, should have spurred it to get its act together, but it came a cropper, posting a mere 143 against the Gujarat Lions and 142 against the Sunrisers. The team’s motto duniya hila denge hum (we will rock you) appears out of sync because of its ordinary performances. The experienced Kieron Pollard, meanwhile, didn't play against the Sunrisers due to poisoning.

ROHIT’S RETURN TO NO. 4

The team which has a super support staff -- Ricky Ponting, Shane Bond, Jonty Rhodes, Robin Singh and Paras Mhambrey -- has returned to the city for its third home game against the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). RCB was shell-shocked by Quinton de Kock’s 51-ball 108 that helped the Delhi Daredevils to a seven wicket win. MI has won nine games and RCB eight, in their 17 head-to-head games.

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Skipper Rohit Sharma batted at number four against the Sunrisers and failed, scoring five runs. Perhaps he thought batting in the middle order would lend more balance to MI's line-up. At the pre-tournament press conference, Sharma said he would open for about four or five matches before taking a call to revert to his favourite IPL batting position, number four, where he’s scored 1974 runs in 70 innings (1367 in 48 matches for MI). Apart from the unbeaten 84 against KKR, he has scores of seven and seven against the Supergiants and the Lions.

MI’S OPENING CONUNDRUM

The home team has already tried three sets of openers -- Rohit/Lendl Simmons, Rohit/Parthiv Patel and Parthiv/Martin Guptill. MI has tried to go after the new ball bowlers in the power-play, but it has only been successful against KKR, scoring 53 for one. It ended up at 37 for four against the Supergiants, 31 for two against the Lions and 40 for two against the Sunrisers. MI’s decision to send Hardik Pandya at the fall of the first wicket has backfired. MI needs someone from the top four to score heavily to give its bowlers some space. As of now only left-arm seamer Mitchell McClenaghan has bowled smartly.

While MI will mull over finding the right combination, the men from Bangalore would expect Chris Gayle (with scores of one and zero against Sunrisers and Daredevils) to deliver the goods and Kohli and A. B. de Villiers to continue with their form. RCB made 227 against the Sunrisers and 191 against Daredevils; so the MI bowlers have their task cut out.

MI's head coach, Ponting revealed that the absence of a specialist number three in the squad opened an opportunity for Hardik Pandya in that position.

When asked to sum up MI's dismal showing so far, Ponting said: "We have been disappointing; we have not played to the levels the team would have liked to. We had a good chase against Kolkata; otherwise our batting has not been good enough yet. I think it is fair to say that to experiment with Hardik at no.3 has not worked. It is more likely that (Amabati) Rayudu will stay there at no. 3 for a few games."