Mumbai Indians have traditionally started the IPL season slowly. It’s been the same this time around too. The going has been tough. The reigning champions lie at the bottom of the table with three losses in as many games.
Mumbai’s loss against Delhi Daredevils off the last ball was the third instance this season that they ended up on the losing side with the result being decided in the final over of the match.
The camera’s have hardly left skipper Rohit Sharma alone, and after each loss, the despair on his face has been quite evident.
The spate of bad results for Mumbai has coincided with the insipid form of their captain. With scores of 11, 15 and 18, Rohit has been off-colour to say the least.
The 30-year-old, who would usually bat at No 4 for Mumbai, chose to open the innings in the first two games before reverting to his preferred position in the middle order against Delhi on Saturday. Unfortunately, for Rohit the changes haven’t really helped him score big.
Mumbai have had to bat first in the three games so far. In their first two games - against Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad - they got off to slow starts. Rohit fell cheaply just as he looked to have got a toe hold. Mumbai’s middle and lower-order carried them to a decent total on both occasions. The tight bowling ensured a close finish but the adverse results did raise concerns about the batting.
The team management’s call to promote Suryakumar Yadav up the order as opening parter to Evin Lewis paid immediate dividends. The two went on a rampage at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, notching up a 102-run stand in nine overs. It was Mumbai’s first flying start of the competition and they looked set for a huge total.
But, they lost their way as the middle and lower order batsmen came in. Rohit was expected to play the central role around which the rest of the batsmen would plot their innings.
Rohit, though, never got going. He played a few stylish shots, but couldn’t carry on from where Surya and Lewis had left off. The necessary push from the middle never came. As he departed in the 18th over, so did all hopes of a huge Mumbai total. They did end up posting 194/7, but Mumbai themselves knew that they could have scored more. The momentum had shifted. Delhi had restricted Mumbai to just 27 runs in the last four overs.
As the match went into the final over, the lack of 20-30 runs came back to bite Mumbai. It was a similar situation in the first two games, only then it was the middle and lower-order which had consolidated the scoring after a failure by the top-order.
For Mumbai to end their winless streak they need to have all their departments fuctioning at optimal levels. While there are a number of chinks in the armour, change, though, has to seap through the top. In this case, the buck stops at Rohit. He will have to lead by example.
In 2017, Rohit had also started on the wrong foot. With scores of 3, 2, 4 and 0 in his first four innings, the hole was quite deep. He dug himself out well and hit his stride as the season progressed. He was instrumental in some crucial wins for Mumbai as they progressed to the playoffs before emerging as the eventual champions.
The story this year has started off with a similar arc. Mumbai has got off on the wrong foot and Rohit isn’t quite firing on all cylinders.
It’s a deep hole that Mumbai find themselves in, again. If anyone knows how to dig themselves out, it’s Rohit. He’s done it before, and there’s no reason to believe why he can’t do it again.