File | Nehal Wadhera and Cameron Green | Photo Credit: SPORTZPICS for IPL
Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians had a disappointing IPL 2022. The side finished 10th and came into the 2023 cycle hoping to turn things around. Kieron Pollard, one of the mainstays of the outfit over the years, moved over to the coaching unit of the franchise. After all the movement from the 2021 auction, and after removing those missing out due to fitness issues, Rohit, Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan were all who remained from the 2020 side which won the title.
Their auction picks, targeted to come together as a combination for the 2023 season, were in focus. However, injuries hampered the team even before the edition began, with one of their most potent bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah, having to sit the season out.
Incidentally, the five-time champion’s performances were no better even when Bumrah and Pollard were in the mix last season. They tasted victory for the first time only in their ninth game and eventually notched up only four wins in total.
Mumbai was forced to experiment, with players, positions and combinations. That exercise triggered the rise of Tilak Varma. The batter scored 397 runs, with a highest score of 61 (33) against Rajasthan Royals. The then 19-year-old bolstered a faltering Mumbai middle order.
With the ball, Rohit could not find someone to step up with as much consistency. Mumbai tried out options like Basil Thampi, Ramandeep Singh, Mayank Markande, Murugan Ashwin and Jaydev Unadkat who came good in parts but could not sustain their impact.
Cut to 2023, and the team had to rebuild from scratch, but the ask is not alien to the franchise. Over the years, this side has successfully groomed unrecognised players into superstars – the Pandya brothers, Bumrah, Kishan being exemplary proofs of concept for the same. All these players made their international debut after making a mark for themselves with the Mumbai franchise. Even Surya earned his international cap after a string of impressive performances in the blue and gold jersey.
This time too, there was a healthy crop of options – Nehal Wadhera, Hrithik Shokeen, Arshad Khan, Kumar Kartikeya and Arjun Tendulkar.
Wadhera stepped up to the task from the first game of the season, when Mumbai took on Royal Challengers Bangalore. A 13-ball 21 was a good indication of the utility he could provide to the middle order. He followed that up with a 21-ball 40 against Gujarat Titans, with a strike rate of 190.48. He also played an important role in the two consecutive victories Mumbai managed over Chennai Super Kings and RCB, scoring consecutive half centuries in the fixtures.
Another domestic talent who made heads turn for MI is Akash Madhwal. His wickets this season have come in clumps. Against the Titans, he removed the team’s potent opening pair – Wriddhiman Saha and Shubman Gill – and also took out the dangerous David Miller. He also played a pivotal role in the fixture against Sunrisers Hyderabad, picking four wickets and helping restrict a fluent SRH to 200.
Arshad’s three wicket haul against the Royals helped Mumbai make inroads in that fixture. His spell did not allow Sanju Samson and Shimron Hetmyer to settle. He even removed an in-form Yashasvi Jaiswal just after he scored a century.
On the other hand, Shokeen and Kartikeya have struggled. They have only five and ten wickets respectively over the last two seasons combined.
Tendulkar, who made his MI debut this season, also had a challenging season. In the four games he played, he has only three wickets to his name and was also taken to the cleaners a few times. He is one of three bowlers to concede 31 runs in a single over this season.
Despite the hiccups, Mumbai has managed to string together enough performances to turn a topsy-turvy campaign around and make it to the playoffs. With the Indian arsenal firing and the overseas contingent – Cameron Green, Tim David and Co – consistently winning games for the side, MI Class of 2023 has every reason to believe in its bid for a record sixth title.
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