When Kiwi all-rounder Corey Anderson, fastest to score an ODI hundred, went under the hammer and the Mumbai Indians bought him at theIPL 7 auction, many feared if the fate of the left-hander would be same as that of Australian Glenn Maxwell, who ‘played’ for them in 2013. But after a quiet IPL, Corey Anderson stole the limelight and a play-off berth from the Rajasthan Royals, hitting a 44-ball 95 to set up a miraculous win for MI.
The title defence
The 2013 champions’ title defence began much earlier than they played their first match in Abu Dhabi against the Kolkata Knight Riders, and it went all wrong. With Sachin Tendulkar announcing his retirement from IPL during the victory lap last year, MI retained much of their remaining star power from the previous edition. But the team management missed a trick here. In the previous editions, MI was found wanting of a stable opening pair and instead of laying their hands upon some of the best openers at the auction, they even let go Dwyane Smith, who played a major role in making them the champs. Although they bought Mr. Cricket, Michael Hussey, but his role in the side remained a mystery.
Consider this for a record – L, L, L, L, L. This was MI’s run in the UAE. They tried four opening pairs, none of them fired. The big guns were not firing nor were their bowlers rattling the stumps. The men in blue lacked the zeal to defend their tag of the ‘champions.’ Only once they crossed the 150-run mark in five matches and the bowlers could never manage to bowl out more than half of the opposition’s batting.
Playin at their fortress Wankhede Stadium, MI were back to winning ways when they beat the invincible Kings XI Punjab. Then it was the Royal Challengers Bangalore. No one was able to conquer the fortress until the Chennai Super Kings beat them by four wickets. It was at this point of time that MI roped in Lendl Simmons as their opener and the West Indian, after only seven games, has 327 runs at an average of 54.50 and a strike-rate just a shade under 133. Also, he is the first centurion of this year’s IPL.
During all this, MI was still seventh in the points table. They lost one more match out of the next six and thanks to other results; they were still in the reckoning for the play-offs. Finally, it was RR playing MI in a virtual play-off to decide the playoffs. Chasing 190 from just 14.3 overs to qualify on behalf of better net run-rate, MI were four down before the tenth over when Ambati Rayudu, joined Corey Anderson in the middle. The pair took on the RR bowling, and scripted a new chapter in IPL history.
MI, with seven win and as many losses, finished fourth in the points table and the camp had found a new spark. They are brimming with confidence and their quest for the second title may have found the right track, at last.
After Lasith Malinga left MI for his country’s international duty, the camp must have had sleep-less nights. Their leading wicket-taker and probably the best bowler at the death had left them.
But without anyone’s notice, there was one bowler who had a better economy rate than even Malinga. Harbhajan Singh has given away 329 runs at an economy rate of 6.45 and the 51 overs he has bowled so far include overs in the powerplay as well. The off-spinner may not have had the best season when one looks at the wickets cordon but he can take pride by the restrictions he has imposed on the batsmen. Harbhajan has varied his pace and cut short on the faster deliveries that were hammered by the batsmen.
What is pleasing to the eye is that he is full of confidence and that he showed by taking the wicket of Kevin Pietersen in the match against the Delhi Daredevils. Right-handed Pietersen changed his stance in the middle of Harbhajan’s run-up. But Bhajji bowled a slower delivery to castle Pietersen round his legs.
He has surely made the batsmen think twice before they decide to come down the pitch to the flight and the loop. Being the most experience of the lot, the Turbanator may just turn a dismal campaign into an empathetic one for MI.
When you can hit the ball rows back into the stands, then why you are reluctant to do so. Kieron Pollard may have enthralled us with his big hitting in the IPLs but his team must have missed all that this season. Apart from the game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad where he scored a 78, Pollard has looked off colour. He has 259 runs from 14 innings at an uncharacteristic strike-rate of 132.
What MI would have wanted Pollard was to finish off the close games that they lost but the big man from West Indies has failed to do so for the team. Though Pollard’s average of over 37 does not sound bad, it is majorly because of the seven not-outs he had this season.
As an all-rounder, Pollard needs to chip in with an odd wicket or two for his team while bowling. Rohit Sharma has not used him after he went for more than ten runs per over in the initial phase of the tournament. Pollard has only two wickets to his name compared to ten in the last IPL which came at an average of 29.
Watch out for
Skipper Rohit Sharma is a big match player and can be very threatening under pressure. He has been hot and cold this season but has guided his team to big totals with some sensible batting and hard hitting towards the end. MI’s highest run scorer this year with 329, Rohit will like to do the same once more for his team. His average of just below 31 and strike-rate for 129 may not sound convincing but once the classy right-hander gets in, bowlers find it hard to contain him. His ability to play on all sides and with utmost easy can disturb the bowler’s line and length. Rohit has made only three fifties till now and is surely due for another big one. We have to wait and watch for that.