After four games, Mumbai’s famous middle order – Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers – have yet to produce the kind of power hit that has made them stand out in the IPL standing out as one of the key reasons behind return to Mumbai Indians mid-season returns in the 2021 season.
The trio that is such an important part of the setup is attested to the ways in which opposition teams have been forced to make plans. Although Rajasthan Royals overcame this challenge by using high speed through the middle tiers to bring a positive result record against Mumbai Indians, it was not a plan that always worked. Sunrisers Hyderabad formulated a plan to target the yorkers from the wicket round or with a left-arm controller that worked well for them in one match last season. Although Delhi Capitals has tried to replicate the yorker plan just to get it wrong and pay the price of a high risk plan.
Against the Delhi Capitals the middle command of the MI struck another trough when they fell against spins – traditionally their favorite form of bowling to dunk – albeit a canny Amit Mishra. Hardik Pandya was out trying to hit the first ball he faced out of the ground and whipping out long, Pollard was brought in after a googly misreading of Mishra while Krunal Pandya’s attempt gave Lalit Yadav his first IPL wicket. The trio collapsed within 17 MI balls with a total well below what they had set up for.
He dismissed the experienced Mishra who had a good fight against Rohit Sharma, the well-placed captain for the 7th time today, creating a much-needed opening for Delhi first. But then he went on to achieve even more through scum through the middle order as well.
“Different bowlers have different styles. My style is bowling in the air,” Mishra said after the match, but he also put ink into his thoughts at the halfway stage. “I never change my bowling, I try to bow to my strengths. I always think of variations not changes in speed.”
Slowly through the air mostly, sticking to his guns worked great for Mishra on a Chepauk field that offered plenty of grip and turn.
For Mumbai, this was one more way in which the middle order was lowered in the opening stages of the season. Earlier, they had fallen prey to Harshal Patel and Andre Russell in consecutive games, both of which operated with different designs but achieved similar results. No one before those two managed a five-wicket draw against Mumbai Indians. And barring one Pollard cameo in four games, the engine room has operated on virtually no fuel.
While Mishra says he has had success without deviating from specific plans, perhaps the opposite is good for a Mumbai middleman who has not found the right alternatives for a pitch that is not conducive to hitting power blind. While there have been calls from the likes of Rohit and VVS Laxman for a slightly measured method of batting to tackle the Chennai pitch, MI’s middle order has not yet found that tempo.
Pollard’s innings against SRH, when he managed to hold the inning together as well as strike out six vital innings, offered MI one way to tackle the pitch, but there was nowhere evidence against Delhi in their next game. It has left a difficult problem for the team to tackle going forward in the season.
“After the start we had we should have batted better in the middle blades. It’s happening over and over again. We can’t capitalize on our start and need to understand as a batting unit,” said Rohit Sharma bluntly speaking to the elephant in the room.
That MI just one more game in Chennai, before moving to Delhi, could come as a bit of a relief. But if the conditions remain as challenging for batting during the season, the task of their middle order will be cut out to find the right answers.