You make it to the IPL playoff and that’s a decent season for any team. But for Mumbai Indians, the five-time champions, ending the season before the final day of the tournament is a disappointment.
At the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad, after a Shubman Gill special blew MI away on Friday night, head coach Mark Boucher was in a pensive mood. The Gill whirlwind was something he and his team had little control over.
While MI and Boucher can take pride in the fact that they became the first team to chase scores of 200 or more five times in a single season despite their talisman Rohit Sharma not firing the way you would expect from the ‘Hitman’ alongside batting lynchpin Ishan Kishan’s indifferent form.
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MI managed to find a second rung of batters in Cameron Green, Tilak Varma and Nehal Wadhera making next season a very exciting prospect.
However, the fact that MI and its think tank could go into a season with a wafer-thin bowling attack is difficult to grasp. Yes, they did lose Jasprit Bumrah, and Jhye Richardson before the start of the season and Jofra Archer could only muster four games battling injury, leaving Rohit very little to play with and he had no option to go in with their inexperienced bowling attack.
“With regards to our bowlers, I think you got to look at it from a different perspective,” Boucher said during the post-match presser, adding, “I think if you have a look at the totals that were scored at Wankhede and chased down, sometimes you can look at the figures and you could say our bowlers were going for a lot of runs.
And yes, there were certain departments or certain games where I think that we could have bowled a little bit better. We got quite an inexperienced bowling lineup. But we had some good chats and I thought we improved as the competition went along.”
The Auction Table Miss
Last year when MI finished 8th a lot was written about MI’s weak spin bowling department. Bumrah and Archer yet again could not play together, but they had to reinforce the spin department and they went for experience in Piyush Chawla and Mumbai Shams Mulani. Kumar Kartikeya and Hrithik Shokeen were retained. As it turned Chawla was the best bowler for MI this season while Mulani warmed the benches. Shokeen played half of the games and was in the news more for his on-field than his bowling exploits. Karthikeya, last year’s reliable Run-stilfer was taken for 9 RPO this season.
They went into the auction with a purse of 20.55 crore and spend 17.5 crore on Green, seeking a replacement for the retired Kieron Pollard. The gamble here was if Bumrah and Archer could not be fit, which was the eventual case, MI had only had Jhye Richardson as a possible replacement – but that plan too failed when Richardson was ruled out with injury.
Aakash Madhwal, Arjun Tendulkar and Arshad Khan were retained while Jason Behrendorff was traded in from RCB. Riley Meredith, Sandeep Warrier and Chris Jordan came in as replacements; but MI were up against the tide right from the start, failing to buy in at least one domestic (capped/uncapped) bowler at the auctions.
They had released Basil Thampi, Daniel Sams, Fabian Allen, Jaydev Unadkat, Mayank Markande, Murugan Ashwin, Sanjay Yadav, and Tymal Mills along with bowlers before the auction.
Madhwal Had to Wait for His Chance to Shine
Madhwal had the highest of highs in Eliminator and while Rohit was all praise for the Uttarakhand bowler for his sublime performances vs LSG and the crunch league game against SRH, the fact of the matter remains, MI did not have confidence in him till the seventh game of the season. MI went ahead with the left-arm uncapped duo of Khan and Tendulkar before turning to Madhwal, and when the returns were dwindling, it was only then Madhwal got his chance. Luckily, he clicked.
“I thought that the guys that we brought in, they did their best in a situation where they probably weren’t selected upfront. So they brought into the competition, probably maybe a little bit out of season for them. But yeah, to lose two players like that, it was difficult. But we gave our best and that’s basically it. We gave our best and we weren’t good enough. Simple as that,” Boucher had resigned answer when asked about the change in bowling plans after Bumrah and Archer’s unavailability.
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“Booms (Bumrah) not being available. Joff (Archer) not being available for the whole series. They’re quality players. And if you’re losing out on your quality players, then yes, it’s going to leave a hole. Not to say that and put any blame on anyone or anything like that. Those things happen in sports. Injuries happen in sports and you’ve got to deal with them,” Boucher would go on to clarify.
‘Opening the Can of Worms Now Would be Stupid’
And while MI and fans will rejoice that there is a backup batting core to that developed in front of their year this season, the bowling without Bumrah and Archer drew a complete blank, and Boucher knows, something has to give. The only option left is a be reboot, or else they will wait again hoping the vision of Bumrah and Archer bowling in tandem comes to fruition and others can rally around them, but the head coach now, at least in the immediate aftermath of the pasting they received at the hands of Gujarat Titans is not the right time to open ‘the can of worms’ – it would be ‘stupid’.
“As I said in the bowling, you lose two of your stars in the bowling lineup. It’s going to create a couple of holes and we try to fix it up as best as possible. Hopefully, the guys can get over the injuries. If they can’t, then we might have to look at other places.
There are so many things that we can talk about now. For me to start opening up a can of worms now would be stupid. I think it’s time to just sit back, reflect a bit, take the emotion out of it and make some good, sound, cricketing decisions once everything’s calmed down and once we understand the future of certain individuals and where they are from a fitness perspective,” concluded Boucher.
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