Why Mumbai Indians are slow starters?


Defending champions Mumbai Indians are perennially slow starters in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Often they’ve started the campaign on the wrong foot, losing the first few games, and have tended to take time to settle down as a team. At the same time, some of the most dramatic and memorable turnarounds have also come from the Mumbai Indians.
The Rohit Sharma-led side tends to pick up pace towards the back half of the tournament. They thrive on the momentum once it’s picked up and are hard to stop. This season it started early.

On Saturday evening, in the most unusual settings, the IPL opener, however, bought all it’s elements back. An opening-game defeat for the Mumbai Indians – who last won their season-opener back in 2012 – dew, and a tactically intriguing chase finished off with MS Dhoni at the crease.

With Saturday’s loss, Mumbai Indians have lost their last 8 season openers in the cash-rich league, with the unwanted record dating back to 2013. The 4-time champions have so far featured in 8 IPL tournament-opening matches and they have lost 5 of them. This was also their 2nd loss to Chennai Super Kings in the tournament opener. But what makes Mumbai Indians such nervy starters?

Players of Mumbai Indians (in blue) and Chennai Super Kings after their match on Saturday. Photo Credit: BCCI

Mumbai look for opening salvo

With a tactically astute win, MS Dhoni completed his 100th victory as CSK captain in the IPL. the 39-year-old, who returned to action for the 1st time since last year’s World Cup, becomes the 1st skipper in the history of the league to reach the 3-figure mark.

But for Rohit Sharma, it is again back to the drawing board before the league gets into the full throttle. It must be a quirky riddle for Rohit as well as head coach Mahela Jayawardene, who must not get too concerned and stick to their original plans for the campaign. One of the key things the duo must ponder is the middle-order balance.

Big guns Kieron Pollard and Pandya brothers failed to make a significant impact in the middle-order as CSK kept plugging away with regular wickets.

Sharma has been the designated opener for India over the last few years in limited-overs cricket but it’s a little different in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Mumbai have missed solidity in the middle order, forcing their captain to shift down at times.

“It’s important to get the balance and the position of each player right,” Rohit Sharma said on the sidelines after their opening loss.

“Where they have batted for their country or state, it’s important to keep that going. For me, I’ve been opening for a while—three years now—so I’d like to continue that for the remainder of the series.

“But everything depends on the balance. If I feel me batting top of the order is not right for the team, I’ll come down as a middle-order batsman. If it helps the team, I’m ready to do whatever it takes to help the team win.”

The elegant batsman conceded that the onus was on him as captain to step up but stressed that he wanted every member of his side to share the responsibility.

Rohit was also not too perturbed by the fact that Mumbai were habitual slow starters in IPL, explaining that every team took time to identify a winning combination.

Mumbai faces early struggles

Rohit Sharma thus far has excelled in the dual role of an opening batsman and captain for the Mumbai Indians.

However, the Mumbai batsman is often found vulnerable at the start of his innings, taking time at the start of his innings to get into the groove. Similarly, it takes him a few matches to get going in the IPL. This rustiness of the captain rubs on to the other players as well. Historically, MI’s IPL campaign has been like a typical inning of Rohit Sharma. A slow start followed by firing on all cylinders.

IPL teams prepare the strategies in advance and last-minute changes to those strategies have not gone well with the MI squad. This season, too, the Mumbai team lost the services of their premier fast-bowler, Lasith Malinga, owing to personal reasons.

Subsequently, they had to switch to plan B in absence of Malinga, which forced Jasprit Bumrah to alter his favoured first change role. In the middle-order as well, Suryakumar Yadav and Saurabh Tiwary – playing ahead of Ishan Kishan and getting his first IPL game since 2017 – did that bridging job up to the scratch, however, with every over the contest titled more and more in favour of the Super Kings and MS Dhoni, in the end, almost only had to pad up for ceremonial reasons.

For the Mumbai Indians, it has become the modus operandi to start the campaign on the wrong foot, their only salvation is that in the past it has fetched them four titles.

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