Mumbai Indians enter the second-half of the tournament playing their 8th match at Wankhede Stadium against RPS © BCCI
Mumbai Indians enter the second-half of the IPL 10 playing their 8th match at Wankhede Stadium against RPS © BCCI

The much-awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017 is already underway and most of the teams have completed 10 years of their existence in the league. One such team amongst the rest is Mumbai Indians (MI). During the beginning of IPL, MI were one of the prestigious sides, much like a king amidst the peasants. They had all the names you would want to see in a side right since the inception of the tournament: Sachin Tendulkar, Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh, Sanath Jayasuriya, Shaun Pollock among others. But despite all this, MI had just one final show until 2013. With change of guard came change of fortunes. There came Rohit Sharma with bright ideas and vibrant captaincy skills. Full Cricket Scorecard, Mumbai Indians vs Rising Pune Supergiant, IPL 2017, match 28

Although they were crowned the IPL champions in 2013 and 2015, luck did not go their way in 2016. Being traditionally slow starters is one tag MI have been carrying along for years. After five games, over past few seasons, the win and loss ratio has been 2-3, 1-4 and 0-5, although they won the 2015 title. But when they made their picks this year in IPL 2017 auctions, MI seem to have found fillers for all their departments. They seem to shrug off the errors made, shed the slow-starters’ tag and  look for new beginnings in the hunt of a title hat-trick.

MI started off their campaign with no injury scare. They found their old heroes returning to the squad, especially with the comeback of Lasith Malinga who missed the previous season due to injury. The first match against Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) saw glimpses of their experienced unit putting up an all-round batting display. However, their bowlers succumbed to a Ajinkya Rahane and Steven Smith show.

Since then, it has been an unstoppable ride for the perennial favourites. MI scripted history when they won their sixth game on trot against Delhi Daredevils (DD) on Saturday despite being a low-scoring affair. One can see many positives from first-half of the show by Mumbai:

Settled opening pair: With Jos Buttler and Parthiv Patel at your disposal, the explosives are expected to be louder. Although Parthiv has seen different opening pairs over the previous editions in form of Lendl Simmons and Rohit himself, the Buttler-Parthiv pair seem to be off-beat. Not only have they provided flying starts in almost every game, but also applied their own techniques, unknowingly, complementing each other well. Where one is composed with his classic shots, the other is innovative and punches the deliveries over the rope with ease.

The Pandya brothers: Where Hardik Pandya gained all the recognition in 2015 edition and earned his spot in national side, Krunal covered it up with his debut in 2016. This time around, they have combined their forces together on most occasions and the result has been volatile. During the match against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), where Hardik played a cameo of 11-ball 29, Krunal ensured to wrap KKR’s innings to 178 with his figures of 3 for 24, thereby setting a unique record in IPL history.

Nitish Rana factor: Being underused in the previous edition, Rana is making complete use of the opportunity handed over to him in the absence of Ambati Rayudu. Already fighting for the Orange Cap with totalof 263 runs amongst big names like Brendon McCullum, Gautam Gambhir and David Warner, Rana is making his statement big enough to reach the ears of the selectors.

Kieron Pollard – The return of the Trinidadian: Pollard has given MI victories on numerous occasions; sometimes even got them home in tough conditions. One of the useful factors of having Pollard in the middle-order is his exceptional finishing skills that have been of-late lauded by former MI coach Ricky Ponting. His match-winning knock of 47-ball 70 bailed MI out from a precarious situation of 33 for 5 and led to  a 4-wicket win against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). However, Pollard’s show in the T20Is this year bore 20 runs. This transformation is surely knocking the doors of WICB, who have time and again sidelined their experienced West Indies players.

Lethal bowling combination: What has also been going the MI way is their bowlers clicking as a unit. Resurgence of Harbhajan Singh has seen him chipping wickets at regular intervals. Jasprit Bumrah’s toe-breaking yorkers have also been an icing on the cake.

Rohit Sharma’s highs and lows: Rohit has heard enough praises by former Indian players in the past years for his captaincy. Sourav Ganguly had backed the young skipper when they won 4 of their 5 matches last year. This time around, he has earned the roars from his teammate and commentators as well. Apart from building the enthusiasm on-field he has also shown that he is a bowler’s captain.

Although Mitchell McClenaghan and Lasith Malinga were smashed by Hashim Amla and Glenn Maxwell, no one would have imagined their return in the death overs. McClenaghan came back after leaking 28 runs and even got a wicket of Marcus Stoinis. Persisting with him in the XI for the next game against DD and returning with figures of 3 for 24, answered all the questions. As McClenaghan had mentioned in his press-conference, ‘Rohit instils confidence in his bowlers.’

However, what has notbeen working for MI is their skipper Rohit Sharma’s similar dismissals against leg-spinners in this series. Barring that unbeaten 40 where he showed glimpses of returning to his form against Gujarat Lions (GL), that one big Rohit Sharma show awaits just like every season.

Birthday special:

However, some articles are never complete without mentioning some names who have added spark to the tournament over the years. As I write, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar celebrates his 44th birthday. He was the icon player of MI when he was bid during the 2008 auctions. Since, Tendulkar has broken several records.

Next year this team might not remain the same.

There might be different captain, players and maybe even new mentor.

With MI entering the second-half of IPL 10, they cannot find a perfect day and venue to make Tendulkar’s 44th birthday a memorable one with yet another success.