The 42nd match of the IPL 2021 tournament between the blockbuster teams, Mumbai Indians and Punjab Kings (MI vs PBKS), could all be about match-ups. Here, we take a look at a key game plan that could play a role in the 42nd game of IPL 2021.
Mumbai Indians, perennial achievers and one of the strongest batting lineups in T20 cricket have seen a massive slump in form in the ongoing edition of the IPL. Having lost 3 games in a row in the UAE and 6 out of their total tally of 10 games, Mumbai seem to be struggling to get back to winning ways. The major reason being their middle-order struggling to get among the runs. Rohit not playing a game and Hardik missing out on a couple of games due to injury has put them on the back seat too. However injuries are uncontrollable, there is something Mumbai can do that can change their fortunes. Let us have a look at how Mumbai have approached their innings in order to spot where they seem to go wrong and what can be a possible fix.
Mumbai Indians’ batting approach in IPL 2021
Overs 7-10: 7.28/18.46
Overs 11-15: 7.28/21.43
Overs 16-20: 8.46/7.78
— Clive (@_vanillawallah) September 27, 2021
Two metrics that can rightly evaluate the batting approach of a side in T20 cricket are Run Rate and Balls per Wicket. Combining these two metrics gives us how quickly a team can score runs and at the same time how consistently they can do it without giving away wickets. Breaking an innings into multiple phases and evaluating using the two aforementioned metrics can give insights into how a team’s batting unit approaches their innings.
Rohit and Quinton, Mumbai’s two in-form batters have made sure that their team gets to a steady start more often than not. Mumbai hardly lose a wicket in the powerplay. On average they have lost a wicket for every 40 balls this season in the powerplay. While it may look like they are in a wicket-preserving mode, they have also not failed to score at a good rate. Taking into consideration that they played a fair share of their games on the Chepauk wicket in their first phase, scoring at a rate of 7.87 without losing a wicket seems to be impressive. If you wonder how the balls per wicket and run rate metric look when translated into the form of a scorecard, it will look like 47 for no loss at the end of six overs. Which team would not love such a start?
While the start has been terrific, Mumbai would not be convinced with the way they have fared in the phases that followed. Having your settled openers and with Suryakumar Yadav a terrific player of spin to follow, Mumbai would fancy taking control of the game. Surprisingly, that’s not how things have panned out. Mumbai have put up their worst show in the 7-10 over phase losing all the advantage that they had gained during the powerplay. They score at a rate of 7.28 and lose a wicket every 18.46 balls. This would more or less translate to 76/1 at the end of 10 overs.
Going into the second half of the innings with nine wickets in hand, Mumbai would still think that they have a massive upside considering they have the likes of Hardik and Pollard to boost their score. Mumbai till the start of the death overs do not seem to take any risk and rather continue scoring at the rate of 7.28 being more conservative where they have lost a wicket every 21.4 balls in between overs 11 and 15. This would translate to 112/2 which is abysmal going into the last phase of the game.
This would leave behind so much work for their finishers to do. Having to compensate for the drop in run-rate from 7.87 at the end of 6 overs to 7.46 at the end of 15 overs, Mumbai seem to go hard and tend to lose a wicket every 7.78 balls which is around 3-4 wickets in 30 balls. Wickets falling in a pile at the death being a common sight in T20s, regardless of how often they lose their wicket, Mumbai fail to up the ante and get to an above-par total. They have scored at a rate of 8.46 at the death which does not meet the standards of modern-day T20 cricket.
MI vs PBKS – The Unconventional Fix
The approach of Mumbai’s batting so far might not be reflective of their abilities but is definitely an indicator of their form. With Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma, and Kieron Pollard being the only batters who are in form and can take control of how things flow, it is necessary that at least one among them is present in the middle throughout the 20 overs with the other batters batting around them. Pollard is a fix for the last five overs. Pollard has scored at an average of 33.75 at a strike rate of 151.69 at the death this season. This makes him the ideal candidate to orchestrate how things flow in the last 4 overs.
While Rohit and Quinton seem to make a formidable opening pair, there is a pressing need to split them in order to accommodate Rohit in the middle-order in order to take charge of the middle overs. A plan to switch displace an opener who averages 104.50 in the powerplay at a strike rate of 133.12 might come across as highly unconventional but Mumbai need Rohit Sharma more in the middle order this season than as an opener. There is no guarantee that this fix might work, but with batters not in form and the team in a state where they can’t afford to lose anymore, Mumbai need to think out of the box and split their in-form batters throughout the 20 overs of their innings.
Rohit Sharma’s middle overs record this season might not be impressive. He has scored 114 runs at an average of 19 and at a strike rate of 128. A possible justification for this might be that him getting out trying to take risks once he is settled after mastering the powerplay. A better indicator of his abilities might be to look at a bigger sample size and considering his record in the middle overs since IPL 2020, his average shoots up to 31.63 while his strike rate goes up to 131.09. Another reason why Rohit is capable of nailing the middle-order role is evident from his numbers against spin this season. A phase where the majority of the overs are bowled by spinners, Rohit Sharma who averages 40.75 and strikes at 134.71 against spinners this season might solve a lot of problems in overs 7-15, a phase where Mumbai let the game slip.
Rohit has been pretty good against spin which has made things easy for Quinton de Kock. Quinton has looked to struggle against spin so far in this season having been dismissed 7 times scoring just 52 runs at an average of 7.43 and a strike rate of 80. With us pushing Rohit to the middle order, it is necessary that we have an excellent player of spin open alongside de Kock. Suryakumar Yadav might have not met the standard that he had set in the previous seasons. But he is definitely the one that Mumbai would place their trust on if asked to choose a batsman to open apart from Rohit Sharma. Suryakumar’s ability against spin is there for everyone to see and his numbers in the last season back his abilities. Also, it isn’t new for Suryakumar playing in the powerplay. He has had an average of 37.25 and struck at 155.21 in the powerplay last season. This further strengthens the case for him to open.
With Hardik coming back from an injury and with Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya being in terrible form, it is necessary for Mumbai to follow a new template in order to go back to their winning ways. With Quinton and Suryakumar opening, Mumbai in addition to a right-left combination have a mix of both a good player of pace as well as spin. Kishan can also be promoted to number 3 if Quinton de Kock gets out while Rohit Sharma can be promoted to number 3 in case Suryakumar Yadav gets out.
This enables them to maintain the right-left combination and also have players who can complement each other to combat pace and spin. With Rohit and Pollard to follow, Mumbai Indians would get more stability when approaching the different phases of their innings as one in-form batter would always be around. Stability throughout their innings is what Mumbai need the most right now and splitting their big three Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard will bring about what is required for them at this stage of the tournament.