Mumbai's bizarre tactics were their undoing

Tendulkar-led side struggled for consistency in later stages

Through the second half of IPL IV, Mumbai have been unrecognisable as the force that set the early part of the competition alight. Eight wins from their first ten matches installed Sachin Tendulkar’s outfit as the overwhelming favourites to go all the way, but since then, Mumbai have struggled for form, consistency and drive, inexplicably going off the boil.

It required huge chunks of luck and late bravado for Mumbai to carry some confidence into the play-offs after they scored 23 in the final over to edge out Kolkata Knight Riders in their final league match. Against the same opponents in the Eliminator, Mumbai threatened to fritter away an excellent start, and survived late hiccups before rolling over the line, exposing their susceptibility in pressure situations.

On the MA Chidambaram stadium strip that was always going to be best for batting first up, therefore, Mumbai would have been better off setting a target rather than opting to chase. By allowing the Challengers the best use of the ideal batting conditions, Mumbai had sold themselves short, but that was just one of several strange moves that contributed to their 43-run defeat.

With Munaf Patel, Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh in the ranks, why Abu Nechim Ahmed was given the first over is another big question. The hapless Jammu & Kashmir lad went for 27 in that over as Chris Gayle lay into him with characteristic gusto, snatching the early initiative and immediately pushing last year’s beaten finalists on to the back foot.

Coach Robin Singh had spoken the previous day about how Mumbai picked bowlers depending on who their opponents were. Nechim’s selection ahead of the more than passable Dhawal Kulkarni was an offshoot of that policy, and what a disaster that turned out to be!

Mumbai did reasonably well with the ball in the last five overs to keep the Challengers down to 185, but once again, the think-tank opted to promote pinch-hitter Harbhajan to number three when more accomplished, specialist batting options were available. The continued reluctance to thrust Kieron Pollard up the order too was baffling.

Last year, in the final against Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai pushed Pollard so far down that by the time he came in during the chase, he had no choice but to go for broke – unsuccessfully -- from the first ball. It was no different on Friday night and, predictably, the Trinidadian floundered again.

Mumbai’s stirring early-tournament run was notable for the wonderful Tendulkar-Ambati Rayudu tandem for the second wicket, at a time when the search for a meaningful opening partner for the master was bearing no fruit. Without provocation, the Mumbai revamped the batting order in the second half, the results ranging from the modest to the disastrous.

It’s back to the drawing board, then, for Tendulkar, Robin and the rest of the management group. Another IPL campaign is over, a mixed bag of outstanding early highs and equally stunning late stutters. The quest for the elusive winning formula continues.

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