Some two weeks ago,as they languished in the bottom-half of the table,Mumbai Indians would have been content with just a spot in the IPL playoffs. Even if it meant,sneaking in with a last-gasp effort. Since then they’ve experienced a significant change in their fortunes.
And an amazing run of form,eight wins in their last nine games,has seen Mumbai not only qualify for the business end of IPL VI already,but also command a top-two position.
While their last win over the Rajasthan Royals at Wankhede Stadium helped them complete a clean-sweep at home,the match itself ended up being tarnished following the spot-fixing allegations levied upon a bunch of their opposition players.
Their next venue is at the serene climes of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium at Dharamsala. Mumbai’s impressive position in the points table though is unlikely to diminish their desperation to finish the league stage on a bright note. A win against Kings XI Punjab on Saturday will not only bolster their dominance at the top of the table,itll also bring parity to their away record this season right,considering that they’ve lost three out of their seven games on the road so far.
Having said that,this could be a once-only opportunity for Mumbai to attempt something they’ve never been keen on; resting a few star names and opening the door for a few unsung members of their camp a shot on the IPL stage.
To his credit,Aditya Tare did show that the lesser-known names in the Mumbai dug-out too were worth their salt,by making the most of his first appearance this season with an aggressive and eye-catching half-century. The opener’s unexpected chance did come at the expense of the injured Sachin Tendulkar. And while it’s unclear whether the Mumbai veteran will be fit for action in Dharamsala,the team management might be tempted to extend his rest,to ensure that he’s in prime condition come the playoffs.
But if Mumbai do stick to their obstinate ways and bring back Tendulkar,then there might be a temptation for the Mumbai management to drop Ambati Rayudu,one of only four members of the team to have played in all 15 matches of the tournament. The diminutive right-hander has been one of the few disappointments for the Indians,having averaged just 17 in 13 outings at the crease. The lack of runs though can be attributed to the fact that he’s never had the privilege of a stable batting position and invariably come into bat with only a handful of deliveries to face. But it’s Rayudu’s strike-rate of 114.86 that is worrisome,especially since he’s renowned for being Mumbai’s clinical finisher.
Mumbai could even consider resting their overseas fast bowling duo of Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson. Though the Sri Lankan has shown signs of regaining his lethal swing and pace in the last few games,Johnson has been Mumbai’s highest wicket-taker this season with 22 wickets. And this could be a good juncture to give young Australian pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile his first shot at IPL glory or give one of the Australian openers,Philip Hughes or Aiden Blizzard an outing just in case of an unforeseen injury next week. There could even be a case for giving Yuzvendra Chahal,the perennial bench-warmer,only his second match of the tournament in place of either Harbhajan Singh or Pragyan Ojha.