There is a sense of allure with Mumbai Indians - the most successful IPL franchise of all-time. A combination of T20 orthodoxy along with a multi-faceted dynamism played a part in the side striking a chord as arguably the most successful T20 side in the world.
Almost every team in the Indian Premier League, or in any league for that matter, relies on a certain set of beliefs. CSK are a spin-heavy side, RCB depend on their top-order batting, likewise, Delhi Capitals, Perth Scorchers and Islamabad United are very cautious and look to fill the team in all regards. A team like Sunrisers Hyderabad, meanwhile, believes in bowling though it changed a bit last year. But look at Mumbai Indians and you see they play all-round cricket in such a way that there is hardly any margin of error.
In the league stage of the 2019 IPL alone, the average first-innings score for all the teams was 164 - yet Mumbai scored at an average of 170 runs and gave away seven fewer than that, 163 runs, on average. The seven-run difference was the formal indicator of how things had shaped up for them in the final stages of the competition. However, before getting to their bowlers’ contribution, which is terrific as we can notice from the average first-innings run conceded, the batting gives a definitive frame of reference.
Unlike teams like RCB, KXIP, and DC, which are hugely dependent on their top-order batsmen to give them the maximum impetus, the Mumbai top-three of Rohit Sharma, Surya Kumar Yadav and Quinton de Kock combinedly contributed 51.09% of runs - which is high but still only fifth among all teams in the league. Below them are only Rajasthan, Chennai and Kolkata which suffice that the common notion of the Rohit Sharma-led side being a top-order behemoth is not exactly correct. There is more to their approach than what meets the eye.
Mumbai’s average runs scored in the powerplay is way lesser than other teams - with the figure of 48.42 lying at the sixth position with only KKR and CSK below them. However, the top and middle-order core remaining constant, Mumbai Indians, on the slow and low pitches of the UAE, can actually give the middle-order of Kieron Pollard, Hardik, and Krunal Pandya a bit more downtime to play around.
They are very much capable of doing that, for the side lost 0.92 wickets on an average inside the powerplay overs - it is stellar as they are only one of the two teams in the competition, with SRH being the other one, who lose less than one wicket on an average during that period. That points to the fact that more than two top-order batsmen are always there when the field restrictions are lifted. Lying second on the list of scoring most runs at the death - with an average of 54.01 to be placed only behind a Russell-powered KKR - Mumbai are better placed to take the death overs by the horns than most other teams. It is a privilege that they can’t have enough of, come September 19 when they will take on Chennai Super Kings under the scorching heat of Abu Dhabi in the tournament opener.
In the bowling department, thanks to the presence of inimitable Jasprit Bumrah and Malinga last year, Mumbai had a cushion that no other team had - guaranteed success in the death overs. It reflected in the numbers as well, with the Men in Blue conceding second-lowest runs at the death to choke the teams in the most predictable way possible. Even in the powerplay, when the duo bowls a minimum of one over each, they still push the team out of their comfort zone, conceding 48.28 runs on an average and compliment that with 1.071 wickets.
There is a caveat though. The above-mentioned number is the second worst wicket-taking performance among all teams and needs to be carefully planned out this year. Over-reliance on death-over bowling - a period which gives them maximum control, with them giving away an average 45.28 runs in the last five overs - could be a disaster. That Malinga will miss the tournament makes their search for a proper replacement even more important even though Trent Boult is waiting to grab the spot.
Rohit Sharma and Mahela Jayawardene, however, will have another important factor to be worried about. In the last season, of all the 90 wickets their bowlers have taken, 65 went to pacers while spinners grabbed only 25 of them. Rahul Chahar, who was the most economical bowler of the year, was the pick of the spinners as well but given the conditions in UAE, one would think bringing an additional off-spinner would do a lot good. Otherwise, would you really bank on Jayant Yadav or Anukul Roy to deliver? Your guess is as good as mine.
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It is Mumbai Indians and things end there. Odd year or even here, you can make all sorts of assumptions but ignoring them is like living in a fool’s paradise. And Rohit Sharma would know, anything other than a title would be a failed mission. Brace for it, IPL fans. We have a heatwave incoming straight out of the Middle-East.