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Unlike CSK who executed a turnaround, MI failed in their fifth match. But we are not writing off Mumbai Indians yet though glaring holes are there in all the departments.

In the auction that preceded this campaign, MI failed to bring back members of the past title winning squad and also to find suitable replacements. The departure of Pandya brothers and Trent Boult in particular left a gaping hole. Daniel Sams and Tim David have failed to convince they can be consistent.

In all five games, MI’s bowling lacked penetration. Rohit Sharma is in woeful touch. Run-outs, dropped catches have made their fielding look ordinary. MI is struggling and the first win seems elusive as ever.

Despite all of this, Mumbai Indians are still considered favourites to win their 6th title in 2023. Here’s why fans should remain optimistic.

First let’s mention the negatives of this campaign and how it can be fixed. MI paltans are always slow starters. We hate to bring stats to prove a point, but this is what it tells us: Mumbai always struggle in the season that follows a mega auction.

Despite all of this, Mumbai Indians are still considered favourites to win their 6th title in 2023. Here’s why fans should remain optimistic.

Worst starts to an IPL season
2008: 4 defeats
2014: 5 defeats
2015: 5 defeats (Went on to become champions)
2018: 3 defeats
2022: 4 defeats

MI have tried and tested a few but haven’t been able to lock down on a strong, settled playing 11. Suryakumar Yadav is back from injury and adds finesse to their batting but bowlers are barely playing their part. The likes of Murugan Ashwin, Basil Thampi, Unatkat and Mills have proved too expensive and ineffective. There is no control in middle and slog overs. Line and length has been wayward especially on their home turf in Mumbai. Mills is their top wicket-taker with 6 wickets in 4 games. Consider this bowling quartet with that of Bumrah, Boult, Pattinson and Rahul Chahar. Two of them currently feature in the top 10 bowling chart playing for other franchises.

In the auction, MI put most of their eggs in one basket meaning they had to pay huge amounts to bring back Ishan Kishan who was not retained. Rs 8 crore for unfit Jofra Archer also raised eyebrows and we can see why.

But IPL is a topsy turvy league and nothing is predictable. With the kind of history Mumbai have it is also safe to bet on them staging a strong comeback next season. The recipe is there, but this one ‘ingredient’ can make them unstoppable.

We say this because Jofra Archer is expected to play next season after recovering from his nagging injury. So what does this do to the current squad? Thampi out Archer in and suddenly MI will have an Archer, Bumrah opening and death bowling prowess.

In the auction, MI put most of their eggs in one basket meaning they had to pay huge amounts to bring back Ishan Kishan who was not retained. Rs 8 crore for unfit Jofra Archer also raised eyebrows and we can see why.

Two of their biggest issues this season have been opening and closing games. Archer’s powerplay economy rate of 4.34 in 2020 was among the best by any bowler in any T20 tournament. His absence is a big part of their troubles.

Jofra Archer Photo Credit : Mumbai Indians Twitter page.

In the mega auction of 2018, MI assembled arguably the best T20 squad ever and addition of Archer will bring them closer to recreating it. Thilak Varma is an able replacement for Hardik Pandya and ‘Baby AB’ Dewald Brevis, who smashed Rahul Chahar for 28 runs in 5 balls, is the explosive overseas batter Mumbai wanted. And he is just 18. If Pollard is able to give them a few overs and finish off games like he used to do in his prime, MI have a great chance to make it 6 next year.

Two express wicket taking fast bowlers, one explosive foreign batter and Pollard – that is how MI won 5 titles.

Even though CSK operate with a different strategy in auctions, the long term approach of MI might be the way forward for CSK to secure its future. The four time champions still rely on old hands and Dhoni’s trusted lieutenants. And once MSD’s complete influence over the franchise fades away as years go by, they might struggle with current formula.

As Fleming said, CSK teams are built for winning the title within the 3-year cycle before the next mega auction. That tactic might not work again as IPL moves towards a more settled, 10-team transfer (trading of players within clubs instead of an auction pool) based model. This will require better scouting and talent identification methods. Not to mention the importance of data. Mumbai Indians picking Tilak Varma and Baby AB shows how data can help in finding like to like replacements for current IPL stars. It will take these players some time to become complete cricketeers but a few years of mentorship is all they need to consistently perform for the next decade.

Similarly, a replacement for Pollard is hard to come by for MI but a data-led approach will help them unearth another gem for the next ten years. Unlike MI, CSK on the other hand follow hands-on, old school talent identification methods. It’s more about players history, culture, abilities and less about their stats and data.

So CSK might have to risk a few seasons of being mediocre in order to build a sustainable franchise which MI are ready to go through this year. CSK must be prepared once Dhoni decides to part ways with CSK once and for all.

 


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