Just when dark clouds seemed to have parted for the Mumbai Indians, the IPL defending champions have been struck by another lightning, which has again disrupted their momentum.
The Rohit Sharma-led side seemed to have made a terrific recovery in recent games, winning three on a trot and moving to second place on the points table. It almost resembled a sports movie, where the unfancied underdogs suddenly rise from the ashes, begin training hard and chart their path to recovery by beating one team after another. However, real life does not necessarily follow such a script, and Sunday's disastrous defeat at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad, to whom they conceded their second loss in the tournament, has brought them back to ground reality.
It was a defeat like no other in the tournament so far. While Mumbai's batting may not be as explosive as the Royal Challengers Bangalore, or have as much depth as Kolkata Knight Riders, it does comprise several match-winning individuals. With a supreme talent like Rohit leading from the front, the batting unit is capable of conquering most, if not all bowling attacks of the tournament.
Instead, their spectacular collapse at Vizag made Kings XI Punjab's batting performances for the most part in the tournament so far look professional. The two openers, Rohit and Parthiv Patel, returned to the dugout after putting up just five runs on the board. The rest of the batsmen were either done in by unexpected bounce and swing, which the Sunrisers bowlers utilised brilliantly, or fell victim to plain carelessness and pressure.
Things only went from bad to worse following Rohit's dismissal, and it seemed as if no one from the team would be able to stand up to the opposition seamers without the constant support and anchoring from the skipper. That is exactly what one infers from the latest batting performance. While Rohit has been in brilliant touch with the bat in the tournament so far, having broken into the top-five run-getters list, his side appears to be excessively dependent on him.
Take a look a Mumbai's wins so far in the tournament. Barring the match against Kings XI Punjab at Mohali, in which Parthiv and Ambati Rayudu stitched together a life-saving partnership after Rohit was dismissed for a two-ball duck, all the other victories have needed knocks of great responsibility from the skipper.
Even the other match-winning individual performances — be it Kieron Pollard's 17-ball half-century or Jos Buttler's 22-ball-41 — have come when Rohit was at the other end, absorbing the pressure like a sponge.
Sunday's defeat shows how brittle the batting unit is mentally, that no one could step up and take charge of the chase once the skipper departed. But even then, nobody expected the title holders to be reduced to 58 for eight, risk being featured in the top-five lowest totals in the tournament's history, and ultimately get shot out for 92 while chasing 178.
The pathetic run also highlighted how Mumbai are yet to adjust to their new "home" venue, the YS Rajasekhara Reddy Stadium in Vishakhapatnam, a polar shift from the flat batting haven back at the Wankhede. A couple of crucial top-order wickets fell to the extra bounce and swing, something that they have be to wary of in future matches ahead.
While the entire blame can't be put on the batting unit's shoulders alone — they also let go of the momentum after taking a couple of key Sunrisers wickets in the first innings — but they were expected to do better with the bat, considering all the potential that is hidden in their order.
There was a big expanse of blue among the visitors present at the venue to make them feel at home, but there's a lot more left for the side to do in order to get themselves acclimatised to the new conditions. MI have four games left in the tournament, two of which will be played here.
Their chances of qualification have been diminished greatly by this loss, especially the net run-rate going to the dogs with an 85-run loss, but there still lies hope for a side which has seen a couple of dramatic turnarounds in the last two seasons.
The way it has shaped up so far, the tournament is still open for Mumbai Indians, and the qualification slots are still anybody's for the taking. With a bit of last-minute inspiration, and a better effort from the team as a whole, they might just make it.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: May 09, 2016 12:03:13 IST