Building a championship team is great but only dynasties survive the test of time. A century from now, people may or may not recall the 92’ and 96’ World Cup winning teams but you can bet your house on them remembering the team wearing the bright yellow that dominated cricket for a decade.
In the IPL, there is only one team that can stand up and make the claim that they will be remembered - Mumbai Indians. Many might make the case for Chennai Super Kings to be in the mix for this honour as well. But if you lose more finals than you win, three against the team you are up against, it takes the gas out of the argument. After the early struggles, which included three playoff runs in five years, Mumbai finally hit their stride, winning five out of the next eight titles. That is a level of consistency that only dynasties can claim to possess.
With the mega auction coming in next year, they are sure to lose out on some of talent that they have nurtured and converted into a well oiled machine that just does one thing - win. As they begin their latest campaign, they have a chance to add to their already littered cap a final feather - a three-peat or a hat-trick.
What was the story last year?
After losing two of their first three games, Mumbai decided they had given everyone a decent headstart and went on a blitz, winning five straight games. The closest margins of victory? Five wickets and 34 runs. By the time the group stage came to an end, they were so far ahead that the 10 wicket loss to Hyderabad didn’t mean anything. In the playoffs, facing Delhi twice, they made little work of their inexperienced opponents, winning the games by 57 runs and 5 wickets respectively to earn their fifth title
Where exactly do they stand this season?
One of the main reasons for Mumbai’s continued success has been their ability to bat deep. That in-turn resulted in them scoring 165.12 runs on average last year. The next best team was Punjab, who scored five runs a game less than the champions. But it’s not just the number of runs they put up which is impressive. MI were able to both put up massive scores and score quickly as well, with a strike rate of 146.29. What is even more impressive is the fact of how good they were, batting first. They scored at a massive 178.33 while batting first, which meant that their opponents very rarely had a comfortable chase.
The Powerplay | Boundary hitters in 2020; Expect the same in 2021
Surprisingly, this was one of the very few areas where they could improve. In the league stages, they trailed SRH and Punjab when it came to this category. Scoring 47.92 runs in the powerplay is by no means a subpar total, considering the league average was 46.07, but it does leave a little to be desired. What really gave them the impetus during the games was their ability to find the ropes as they scored a shade over 69% of their runs, higher than even SRH, from boundaries. With Quinton de Kock contributing 251 in the first six at a rate of 132.80, MI had a dependable opener who was complemented by the No.3 Suryakumar Yadav, who contributed 114 runs at a rate of 156.16 when the need arose.
Coming to this season, there is no reason to expect any drop off in the powerplay from Mumbai seeing that they retained all their major stars. With the likes of de Kock, SKY, and Ishan Kishan, it is going to be pretty much business as usual. Such has been their trust in their top order, they did not opt for a single player in that section during the 2021 auction. If you want to really nitpick, maybe their running between the wickets can be slightly better. However, one thing that can make Mumbai unbeatable would be if Rohit Sharma comes back into the kind of destructive form he is known for. Last season he finished with the lowest number of runs (332) among the top four with a sub par strike rate of a mere 127.69. If he can hit the ground running, there is hardly a team in the world that can, forget win, even compete against Mumbai.
Middle-overs | Decent in 2020; Expect pretty much the same in 2021
Mumbai have stuck to their formula of filling up their middle order with hard hitting all rounders. In Hardik Pandya, Kieran Pollard and Krunal Pandya, they have a middle order that most teams would kill for, and they might when the mega auction comes around next year. But as of right now, Mumbai get to enjoy another season with their stars in their quest for the three-peat. As far as numbers go, MI were yet again in the middle of the pack with an average of score 62.5 for overs 7 through 14, which put them fourth in this category. It gets even worse when you consider just the average (58) while batting first.
But this slump, if you want to call it that, is not down to the aforementioned players. While Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and de Kock did their part, Rohit (90 runs @128.57) and Saurabh Tiwary (62 @108.77) were the major culprits. Pollard and the Pandya brothers used the opportunity to get used to conditions before launching an assault in the final overs. It will again be down to Rohit to up his game and make Mumbai an even scarier prospect. Mumbai will stick to their tried and tested middle order yet again and it might be their one true weak point. Whether or not teams can exploit this remains to be seen.
Batting at the death | Great then, Great now
Now, we begin looking at all the aspects that make Mumbai a clear-cut favorite for the title again. Starting with their death over batting. NO ONE comes close to Mumbai when it comes to their death over exploits. In the death Mumbai averaged an incredible 68.83. The league average was 57.01 and the next best team (RCB) accumulated almost 10 runs fewer (58.92). Out of the top six players with the highest death over strike rates last season, four belong to the team from Mumbai. Remember Pollard and Hardik? The two of them combined to score 446 runs at the death and while the Indian hit at 185.45, the West Indian scored at a strike rate of 216.07.
Based on the recently concluded England series, it is clear the Hardik is raring to go and if you have questions about Pollard’s appetite, just ask Akila Dananjaya. While they did acquire James Neesham and Nathan Coulter Nile, for a reduced price, the duo are unlikely to be instrumental in the Mumbai setup for the upcoming season. They could come in handy this season but it is going to be the usual suspects that will cause the most damage again this year.
It is Mumbai. They have been doing it for ages now and they should continue the trend again this year. Their strength at the death makes them a force like no other. That said, playing their first nine games in Chennai and Delhi, they might not be able to be too explosive with the bat up-top. So their middle over game needs to be better because even though their bowlers can out-power any side, it would not be a wise decision to put that extra pressure on them. If there was anything to be learnt last season it was how easy the game can be for Mumbai if both facets of the team compliment each other.
When you look at Mumbai, it is mostly their batting prowess that you sit back and admire. You might come up with Bumrah as a premier bowler in the league but not one else. Yet, when you look at the numbers, it is their bowling that is truly incredible. What Mumbai’s group of leather wielders are able to achieve is not an anomaly but rather the stuff of legend. As we go about analyzing all of the numbers, you will have a newfound respect for Mumbai’s bowling attack.
Powerplay | Truly magnificent
Remember how Mumbai were middle of the pack when it came to powerplay batting? Well, when it comes to the other side, they are absolutely spectacular. On average, Mumbai leak 42.71 runs in the powerplay. This puts them right at the top of the rankings, over three runs clear of the league average. Apart from Rahul Chahar, who bowled only three overs in the powerplay, no other MI bowler had an economy in double digits. While Jasprit Bumrah, quite justifiably, is seen as the spearhead of the MI attack, it is actually Trent Boult who does the most damage in the first six overs. The Kiwi claimed 12 wickets in the powerplay while leaking runs at just over a run a ball. In Krunal, they have a spin option as well, something they utilized very well last season.
This season, in all honesty, should be even better for them as they make their way to Chennai and Delhi for their first nine matches. Not only can they use Jayant Yadav a little more on the slow surfaces, but the acquisition of Piyush Chawla means they have an extra option as well, with the Rahul Chahar experiment not really working out last season. MI already have Mohsin Khan waiting in the wings but they went and hired replacements for their prime powerplay bowler with Marco Jansen (20 lakh) and Arjun Tendulkar (20 lakh) joining the contingent as well. Bowling on these slower surfaces there is a high chance the Mumbai’s average runs conceded in the powerplay might drop below 40 and that would not be a bad bet to make ahead of the season.
Middle-overs | Fared alright in 2020; Need spinners to step up this time around
This was the only part of the game where Mumbai, by their lofty standards, lagged behind, in comparison to the other teams. They were able to pick just 1.7 wickets per game in this phase while conceding 62.92 runs. That put them as the second worst team, in terms of runs conceded, in the league stages ahead of just Delhi with an astonishing 66 runs. A major reason for that can be attributed to the lack of quality spinners. SRH were the top dogs in this category and Rashid Khan can be quoted as the main reason for it. MI used Rahul Chahar and Krunal as their main options in the middle overs but it didn’t quite work out as the duo conceded at the rate of 8.26 and 7.74 respectively. While Chahar was able to claim 12 scalps, Krunal returned just one despite bowling 31 overs. The second highest wicket taker in this phase for MI was Bumrah, who bowled 14 overs in the middle and scalped six wickets at an unbelievable economy of 4.86.
But Mumbai have been afforded a simple out this year around. The acquisition of Piyush Chawla will definitely come as a blessing thanks to the truckload of experience he brings with him. However, the biggest break that they caught was the scheduling. With Chennai and Delhi historically being slow wickets, they will have the option of going in with Jayant Yadav as well. Yadav bowled only one over in the middle overs last year and went for 12 but he has shown that he is capable of more than that. Are Mumbai loaded up with great options here? Well, no. But the fact is that they have been able to do a lot with a lot less.
Death overs | Bumrah brilliant last year; Bumrah is still there this year
Whenever we think of great death over bowlers, they tend to play for Mumbai. No one in this world could have imagined Mumbai making the seamless transition from a certain Lasith Malinga to Jasprit Bumrah with such ease. But they have and boy are they good at the death! The league average for death over runs conceded was 57.01 last season. The second best side, SRH, stood at 54.35. Mumbai were at a scarcely believable 52.92. That is an ungodly number when you consider the level of the IPL. They averaged more than 2 wickets a game in the death during the league season and with the Monsieur Bumrah still acting as the King of the Death, they are not going to struggle anytime soon.
Unless SRH figure out a way of integrating Mujeeb ur Rahman into that already loaded lineup, Mumbai are still the best bowling side in the league. It would take something out of the ordinary for Mumbai to fall off their pedestal and based on the last few months, it would not seem like something that is likely to happen.