Jasprit Bumrah is one of the best bowlers in world cricket, and his reputation as a master of yorkers and slower balls during the slog overs makes him a potent weapon in limited-overs cricket. He has been one of the primary reasons behind Mumbai Indians' success in the Indian Premier League over the last few years. Yet, if anyone saw him for the first time when he came to bowl his third over against Delhi Capitals at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, they would have wondered why there is so much buzz around him.
He started well by conceding only ten runs in his first two overs, but then Rishabh Pant batted with such authority against him that Mumbai looked clueless on the field. He finished on an unbeaten 78 off 27 balls, off which he took 18 runs from seven Bumrah deliveries as Delhi posted 213 for 6. Taking a cue from Pant, Rahul Tewatia audaciously slog swept Bumrah for a six as he finished with figures of 4-0-40-1, which included three fours and three sixes.
Bowlers are bound to have off days, but they expect their partner from the other end to absorb the losses and make up. Mumbai’s decision to give IPL debutant Rashikh Salam, a 17-year-old right-arm medium pacer, the penultimate over proved costly. He leaked 21 runs, as Delhi collected 52 off the last three overs.
Obviously Mumbai missed the services of Lasith Malinga, who has so far opted out of the first six matches of this season because of his domestic commitment in Sri Lanka, and Adam Milne, who has been ruled out because of an injury. But did Mumbai really not have any other option apart from putting Salam in the hot spot?
Ben Cutting was expensive in his two overs, but surely his experience could have come handy. Also, why has Mumbai been hesitant to use Kieron Pollard as a bowler? He has been bowling in other Twenty20 leagues, but surprisingly has now not bowled for Mumbai since last IPL.
"That may be because of the (Mumbai) think tank’s lack of confidence in my bowling. It could be because of the line-up that we play, because we tend to play with five out-and-out bowlers, and then we have Hardik (Pandya), who is our sixth bowler,” Pollard had told to ESPNcricinfo in a recent interview. “So that has diminished my bowling a bit. But outside of IPL, I bowl in other tournaments – PSL (Pakistan Super League), CPL (Caribbean Premier League). That aspect of my game is still there. I always feel like I can come on and make a difference with skills like taking the pace off the ball, lines, lengths, different things.”
In the recently concluded PSL, he bowled in 12 innings for Peshawar Zalmi and finished with a decent economy of 7.98. It is not difficult to conclude that he would have done a better job than Salam, and that could have straightaway made a difference of ten runs to the final total.
That was not only the error Mumbai committed on the field. They bowled a lot of short deliveries to the third-wicket pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Colin Ingram. Quite a few of them went for boundaries as they put on a partnership of 83 in 9.2 overs after being 29 for 2. The pressure was not sustained as the pair was also allowed to take easy singles.
The ball usually skids off the surface at Wankhede Stadium once the floodlights are on, and dew becomes a factor. On this occasion, though, there was some assistance for spinners and dew never came into the equation. Rohit Sharma’s decision to field first was keeping the conditions in mind, and he categorically said that he was not keen to play a leg-spinner as Delhi’s line-up was filled with left-handed batsmen and he “was not convinced” that he would get to bowl his full quota of four overs.
While the second judgement is spot on, the way Mumbai went about their chase was not of the quality of a franchise that has won the title thrice. Yes, they were chasing 20 extra runs, but except for Kagiso Rabada none of the other Delhi bowlers were unplayable. It was a case of the top-order taking the game deep and then assess the situation in the final few overs.
Rohit, Quinton de Kock and Pollard got starts, but none of them were able to make it count like Yuvraj Singh did with his 35-ball 53.
“The ball was still coming on well when we batted. We ended up getting 180 (176), still. Nobody went on to get a big score,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation ceremony. “Yuvi batted brilliantly, and there were a few cameos. If one of the top three or four had scored 70-80, things would have been different."
Yuvraj also was scratchy to begin with before he hit a few good looking shots to boost his strike rate. It definitely buys him a few more matches, but the question that kept popping up was whether Ishan Kishan, who has been in good form for Jharkhand in domestic circuit recently, would have been a better choice than him?
Time will answer the question, but for now Mumbai have extended their streak of losing the first match of IPL to seven seasons.
Their next game is an away encounter against Royal Challengers Bangalore, and depending on the fitness of Bumrah, who suffered an injury while trying to field a ball of his own bowling in the last delivery of Delhi’s innings, there could be a few changes to personnel.