IPL 2015

Cock of the walk to feather dusters: How Mumbai Indians got pushed over

MI spent $1 million on Maxwell, IPL 7 orange cap holder, in last year's auction and made him warm the bench.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Mumbai | May 18, 2014 5:46 pm

Corey Anderson, who scored an ODI ton in 36 balls, though, is yet to set the stage on fire. (BCCI) Corey Anderson, who scored an ODI ton in 36 balls, though is yet to set the stage on fire. (BCCI)

Last year, Mumbai Indians started their IPL campaign with an opening partnership that created quite a hysteria. They, after all, had Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting not only on the same team-sheet but walking out together.

As it turned out, their pairing at the top of the order lasted a sum total of five innings before Ponting, for whom Mumbai had paid Rs 2.12 crore to lead the franchise, was benched. To cut a long story short, the Indo-Australian combination looked out-dated for the IPL challenge.

Mumbai did go on to win their maiden IPL crown in 2013 but by the end of their successful campaign, Mumbai’s two marquee men were left to cheer their team on from the sidelines. Tendulkar due to injury and Ponting due to a lack of form.

Ponting was back in the Mumbai dug-out earlier in the season, albeit briefly, this time around in a desperate bid to help his former team recover from a horror start to IPL7. Even his presence has proved to be in vain as they have lost seven out of their 10 games till date this season of the IPL.

The unexpected SOS to Ponting, in many ways was symptomatic of the Mumbai Indians’ mentality. Where they have shown consistency, though, is with their penchant for fanciful, almost whimsical, decisions in terms of getting personnel on board, both on and off the field. In this context, they have also been riddled with a sense of over-indulgence, bordering on interference, from their opulent owners.

They have gone into auctions year after year, like kids at a candy shop fixated on the flavour of the season.

Big money buys

This year the beneficiary of their opulence was Corey Anderson, whose only experience in the subcontinent at the time of the auction was a handful of New Zealand A matches in India. But he had by then scored an ODI ton in 36 balls. So far in IPL7, though, the muscular Kiwi is yet to set the stage on fire.

He wouldn’t be the first big-money buy for Mumbai to fire blanks. Two years ago, there was Richard Levi, picked on the basis of a thrill-a-minute ton in a T20 against New Zealand.

Graham Napier, the Essex all-rounder, was another one, picked on the basis of having smashed a blistering century prior to the 2009 auction. Incidentally, Mumbai had created a furore last year when they spent $1 million on Glenn Maxwell, and made him warm the bench. Maxwell, has of course set this edition on fire and is the current holder of the orange cap.

Bulging squad

Apart from this fixation for stars, till last year it seemed like Mumbai had taken their slogan “Akkha Mumbai Khelega” a tad too seriously. In 2012, their roster was almost bursting at the seams with 34 members. That number reduced by three last year.

The burgeoning squads meant that many of the local talents had to bide their time on the sidelines, with up to 20 manning the bench at all times. Before long it resulted in players leaving the crowded nest. Many who left ended up creating IPL niches for themselves.

Ajinkya Rahane, of course, being the standout. This year too, many of the headline-grabbers have been those who have donned Mumbai colours before, from Maxwell to Yuzvendra Chahal.

Another reason for their struggles has been an evident lack of continuity with their selections from within the squad. While skipper Rohit Sharma scored a majority of his runs from the No.3 spot over the last two seasons, he started off IPL7 batting at No.5. This, despite having struggled to find a stable opening partnership over seven IPL seasons. But they have remained steadfast in keeping Kieron Pollard’s explosive skills for the latter half.

Nothing embodies their turmoil more than the bizarre case of Zaheer Khan. They got him to Mumbai in 2009 as an exchange offer for Uthappa. Then they let him go in 2011. That is before they got the veteran Indian pacer in this year’s auction. This year, Zaheer was one of the few positives to emerge from Mumbai’s UAE nightmare before he got injured.

For once, he had looked settled in Mumbai colours. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the team.

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