Mumbai Indians won their first IPL title in 2013 but they have struggled to get going in the opening games in this year’s tournament. Following the 2014 IPL auction, Mumbai’s batting unit now appears weaker than the one that faced Chennai in last year’s final.
Firstly, the Mumbai Indians have so far struggled to replace the now retired Sachin Tendulkar. A legend of the game, Tendulkar’s experience was vital at the top of the order last year. Signing Mike Hussey, the top run scorer in IPL 2013, is a conscious effort to solve this problem. However, the Australian has played limited cricket and takes up another valuable overseas spot which affects the overall balance of the side.
Hussey is a like for like replacement for Tendulkar but this leaves Mumbai lacking a big hitter at the top for the powerplay overs. Last year Dwayne Smith filled this role but he went to Chennai in the auction. Relying on the inexperienced Aditya Tare to fulfil this position heaps pressure onto Mike Hussey, preventing him from adequately anchoring the innings.
The Mumbai batting problems have been exacerbated by strange batting order decisions. Rohit Sharma opens in T20 cricket for India but for some reason has been hidden down the order at No. 4 for Mumbai this season. He needs to come up to at least No. 3 to face more balls and to take some responsibility as captain of this side.
The biggest blow to Mumbai has been the loss of Dinesh Karthik to the Delhi Daredevils. Karthik scored over 500 IPL runs last year and was the cornerstone of the Mumbai Indians side. He provided runs in times of trouble in 2013 and Mumbai look an Indian batsman short without him.
The loss of Karthik has upset the balance of the Mumbai side, forcing Ambati Rayudu to come in earlier than last season. Rayudu was a destructive finisher alongside Kieron Pollard last year, giving depth to the Mumbai batting order. With rusty all-rounders Pollard and Corey Anderson returning from injury, there is a lot of pressure on Rayudu to make runs.
The weakness of the Mumbai batting line-up means that their line up is an inflexible one. Ben Dunk seems to be their only batting alternative and with all the overseas spots filled there seems to be little room for manoeuvre. Mumbai Indians would like to include in-form bowler Krishmar Santokie but with the batsmen struggling they cannot afford to include another specialist bowler. With Harbhajan Singh at 7, the Mumbai tail is a long one.
Despite retaining the maximum five players, Mumbai have lost some key assets in the 2014 auction. Dinesh Karthik and Dwayne Smith were pivotal performers last year and will be sorely missed this time around. Add that to Tendulkar’s retirement and it is clear that the Mumbai batting unit is not the same dominant force of 2013.