IPL 2013: Mumbai Indians' exceptional team-work may help them go all the way

Mumbai Indians have exploited their home conditions extremely well this season © IANS

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

With a host of international heavyweights in their ranks, Mumbai Indians are arguably the strongest side on paper in the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL). Following two seasons of inconsistent performances, Mumbai seem to have got it right and are strong contenders for the play-offs. They have a good chance of sealing their qualification when they face the Sunrisers Hyderabad at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.

Mumbai have exploited their home conditions extremely well this season. The Wankhede wicket has enough bite for the fast bowlers and also provides some assistance to the spinners. If they bowl in the right channels, they can restrict the opposition and exert considerable pressure. While the Mumbai batsmen often steal the limelight, their bowlers have been admirable as well. More importantly, they have gelled well as a unit and backed each other by bowling parsimonious spells.

In previous seasons, Mumbai were heavily dependent on Lasith Malinga, whose lethal toe-crushers spelt doom for the batsmen. However, when he struggled to get it right, Mumbai failed to strike as a unit. That has changed this season with the emergence of Mitchell Johnson. The Australian left-armer has bowled with pace and has combined it with copious movement to help Mumbai make early inroads.

Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha have done their bit with their spin. The resurgence of Harbhajan, in particular, has been important. The off-spinner has been through a rough phase, but has been among wickets this year. Ojha has carried his good form into the IPL. He isn’t afraid to toss it in the air and lure the batsmen out of the crease.

On the batting front, Rohit Sharma — taking over the captaincy from Ricky Ponting — has been in majestic form. He has been calm in crisis. Once settled, he tears into the opposition in his inimitable style.

Dinesh Karthik has been in good touch throughout the tournament. At No 3, he is always busy at the crease. He looks for the opportunities to take singles and puts pressure on the fielders with his opportunistic running. He doesn’t miss opportunities to targets the boundaries to maintain a good strike-rate.

Unlike the previous seasons, the big-hitting Kieron Pollard has been fairly consistent with the bat. Mumbai have finally learnt from their past mistakes and allow Pollard more time to get into his zone. His form has allowed Mumbai to accelerate during the slog overs, especially while setting a target.

The only little glitch has been the opening combination. It has been a hit-and-miss ride for both Sachin Tendulkar and Dwayne Smith during the IPL 2013. After Ponting’s exit, the pair has brought about a semblance of stability. But the opening slots still remains an area of concern. Tendulkar has looked good, but hasn’t had too many big scores. Smith has been aggressive in a few outings and has struggled to maintain pace in others. Mumbai would hope they peak now as the tournament approaches its business end.

To sum it up, Mumbai’s team-work has been exceptional and it isn’t about a few individual stars doing the job. While individual performances can help teams win T20 games, it is a collective effort that clinches tournaments. That is why Mumbai have what it takes to go all the way.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/nishad_44)