There’s no doubt that Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are the two best teams in the history of the Indian Premier League. In the 14 seasons, these two sides have accounted for as many as nine IPL titles — MI five times and CSK four — and have played four finals between them.
However, this season in the ongoing 15th edition — the two teams are struggling to be competitive, plumbing the bottom with four defeats from four matches. Their latest defeats against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) respectively on Saturday have exposed them to the possibility of missing the playoffs spot.
Though it is too early to write them off and Mumbai Indians, notorious for their slow starts, have scripted a great comeback in 2015 when they came back to win the title after losing four matches at the start, it still looks an uphill task for the two most successful IPL franchises unless they take some drastic steps.
In the four matches, each of the two teams have played so far, the two teams have not given any indication that they can script another epic comeback.
So, while the two team managements plan for their next round of matches on Tuesday (CSK v RCB) and Wednesday (MI v PBKS), here’s a look at what ails the two most successful franchises in IPL 2022:
Chennai Super Kings:
Matches played 4. Won 0, lost 4. Top scorer: Shivam Dube (112 runs @ 28.00). Best bowler: Dwayne Bravo (6 wkts @ 19.33).
They have clicked neither in bowling nor in batting — losing two matches batting first and two batting second.
Usually quite meticulous in their planning, the CSK management misplayed their hand in the auction, failing to get back a top-class opener like Faf du Plessis and the impact on their batting is showing.
Except for the 210/7 they scored against Lucknow Super Giants, they have struggled to put up scores of 131/5 (v KKR), 126 (v Punjab Kings chasing 180/8) and 154/7 (v SRH). The fact that they failed to defend 210 shows that there are problems in their bowling department too.
The major problem in batting in the opening slot is Ruturaj Gaikwad, the Orange Cap winner in the 2021 season and one of the players they retained, has produced just 18 runs in four innings. Though the experiment to promote Robin Uthappa to the opening slot has been successful, the CSK management too knows that they can’t depend on him to score every time he steps onto the field. Shivam Dube has held his own down the order, by the time he gets to the crease, CSK are already in deep trouble.
In the bowling department, the absence of the injured Deepak Chahar (quadricep tear) is clearly felt. Chahar had taken 14 wickets in 15 matches last season and was bought by the franchise for 14 crore. In his absence, CSK have struggled to get early wickets. He is expected to be back on April 25 but that may prove too late.
What CSK needs to do is rework their batting order and either give Gaikwad some rest or pair him up with someone like Ambati Rayudu or even MS Dhoni, who can have a calming effect on him. Dhoni could be a good choice as he can also build up his innings and then give the innings a late charge. They have many batters like skipper Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube and Dwayne Bravo can come in late and blast-out quick-fire cameos to build on the platform provided by Dhoni.
As head coach Stephen Fleming said on Saturday night, they have to work in all departments of the game. “I think it’s clear. Batting, bowling and fielding is what we need to work on. And moving forward we improve batting, bowling and fielding.”
“Probably each facet [of the game] is a concern, if not at one stage then altogether,” Fleming said. “We were well outplayed today. We’re sort of learning. We’ve got some issues around player availability, and in some areas a little bit underpowered, that we’re just looking for players to step up. So, we’ve got some learning to do still around our players and our squad.”
Matches played 4. Won 0, lost 4. Top scorer: Ishan Kishan (175 runs @ 58.33). Best bowler: Tymal Mills (6 wkts @ 16.50).
There are two areas in which MI is found lagging — middle-order batting and bowling.
Though opener Ishan Kishan has done reasonably well so far, Rohit Sharma has not been as successful barring a score of 41. Tilak Varma too has caught the eye while the return to action of Suryakumar Yadav has strengthened the batting. If Kieron Pollard too gets into the act, MI’s batting woes could be solved.
They need a lot of work in the bowling department — reworking the combinations once all the players are available. They don’t have enough quality bowlers to support Jasprit Bumrah. A bowler like Trent Boult would have been a great support to Bumrah but they let him go. They invested big in Jofra Archer but he is unavailable due to an injury.
Mumbai now should give the pairing of Bumrah and Jaidev Unadkat more chances and hope Danial Sams regains his composure and could make a comeback after being dropped for some matches.
With captains opting to chase, they should hope that their batters do enough to overcome the damage done by the weak bowling.