Blowing hot and cold seems to have become a habit for Mumbai Indians (MI) in the past two seasons. It lost the first five matches in 2014 and sneaked into the playoffs with a run of four wins in its last four.
This year, after being winless in the first four games, it has now won five of the last six, including four on the trot. A victory against Chennai Super Kings here on Friday will propel it into the top-four with three matches to go.
For Mumbai, the stuttering start has largely been overcome, thanks to its bowling unit successfully defending totals four times. Lasith Malinga’s 15 wickets have contributed immensely to the cause and the Sri Lankan’s non-availability will be a big blow.
In the chase against Delhi Daredevils the batting came good too, with the triumvirate of Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard finishing the game. But constant shuffling to shore up the middle order — Kiwi Corey Anderson is still not fit — has led to the three batting a rung lower than their usual slots and that has been a bit of a talking point.
“Everyone has a certain role and they are aware of it and they are doing the job,” said Parthiv Patel. “That is why we have won five games. (Ambati) Rayudu has finished games for MI in the last few years. So, I don’t see any chance of the order changing.”
For CSK, in spite of having almost sealed a top-four slot, much will ride on the game. While a victory here can confirm it — keeping its perfect home record in tact — the match represents an important step in occupying one of the much-coveted top two slots.
The need will also be to strengthen a brittle middle-order, which, after being completely exposed for three games, fared only a tad better thanks to Suresh Raina’s solid half-century against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Question marks over R. Ashwin’s fitness and Ravindra Jadeja’s form still persist.
While coach Stephen Fleming said that Ashwin’s match-fitness was yet to be assessed, he did hint at Jadeja being given a longer rope, even in the light of the “healthy competition” from Pawan Negi.
“We want more from Jadeja,” he said. “But his skill set is something we value. He has been instrumental in the field and has effected a couple of crucial run outs. That can’t be faulted. The fact that Negi has come into the equation has given us depth. But at this point we will closely work with the players than chopping and changing.”