Two final-ball losses and a penultimate-ball defeat; so near, yet so far. This has been the story of Mumbai Indians' season so far. The silver lining for the Rohit Sharma-led team is that
their net run rate there is none. Of course, there have been a few good individual performances but the show displayed by the team as a whole has been disappointing.
Mumbai came second against Chennai Super Kings in a match they had no business losing. Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, they produced a lacklustre performance until Jasprit Bumrah and Mustafizur Rahman reignited hope in the death overs. That hope didn't last long though as it was crushed by Deepak Hooda and Billy Stanlake. The same story was repeated against Delhi Daredevils. And even though it may seem that Mumbai ended on the losing side because the opposition held their nerves better than Rohit Sharma and Co, it is the safety-first approach that has pegged Mumbai back so early in the season.
Mumbai blazed to 84/0 in the first six overs. The move to send Suryakumar Yadav up the order worked wonders. Suryakumar, not so long ago, captained Triumph Knights to the Mumbai T20 league title. That and him being a local player led to his promotion. It was a brave move which paid off beautifully. But as good as Evin Lewis and Suryakumar were in the Powerplay, the two overs that followed gave Delhi an opening.
The seventh over was bowled by Rahul Tewatia and both the openers hardly attacked him. Even Glenn Maxwell, who bowled the eighth over, conceded five runs. Mumbai's run rate after the Powerplay was 14 but it dropped down to 11.5 in the eighth over. While, 11.5 is still a healthy run rate but those two overs disrupted the momentum of the innings and it took all but five balls for Tewatia to send Lewis packing. It was enough for Delhi Daredevils to sneak in and stage a remarkable comeback after a disastrous start.
Mumbai Indians scored 74 runs from the 7th to the 15th over at 8.22 and lost only two wickets. The pressure created in the middle overs was clearly visible in the death as the hosts fell like ninepins. 36 runs and five wickets: that was Mumbai's performance in the last five overs. It was a 210-run wicket and despite the dream start that Lewis and Suryakumar provided, Mumbai ended on 194/7. Even Suryakumar agreed in the post-match press conference that the side was '10 to 15 runs short.'
The momentum was with Delhi in the chase and probably going with the theory that sides usually don't target the first over, Rohit tossed the ball to Hardik Pandya, who leaked 11 runs. He tried Akila Dananjaya from the other end but the Sri Lankan, featuring in his first IPL match, conceded 12 off it. It took two overs and 23 runs for Rohit to bring Jasprit Bumrah and Mustafizur Rahman into the attack.
Both of them started brilliantly. In fact Bumrah beat Gambhir on the outside edge a couple of times. While Mustafizur just allowed four singles off the fourth over. But instead of giving another over to one of his strike bowler, Rohit decided to opt for a comfort over, hoping that Hardik escapes with a frugal over. The end result, though, was a 21-run over. It also allowed Jason Roy to find rhythm and from thereon he hardly ever looked back.
One cannot say with certainty that another over to Bumrah or Mustafizur would've given a wicket to Mumbai Indians but surely it would've put Delhi under pressure and just like Lewis, who went for a big shot, after a couple of tight overs, Roy or Pant could've played a false shot under pressure.
This tendency of putting safety first is not helping Mumbai's cause at all. They have the ammunition to go all out and now that their season has started with a three-match losing streak, they should certainly look to change this approach.