The toughest period for Mumbai Indians in IPL-7 beckons. Away from their favourite Wankhede Stadium, Rohit Sharma & Co. now have four consecutive away games, and a slip-up in any of those will mean they can forget about defending their much cherished IPL trophy.
First up for them are the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Monday, who are back to winning ways after the AB de Villiers assault stunned them in Bangalore. They have since defeated Rajasthan Royals in Ahmedabad, and the Delhi Daredevils in their den on Saturday. What's working for them is that Bhuvneshwar Kumar is back to his swinging best, while Dale Steyn has also joined the party, picking up two wickets against Delhi. If their batting unit manages to click, Mumbai Indians will have their task cut out.
They already have. The defending champions slipped to seventh spot after Saturday's defeat to the Chennai Super Kings, and now need to win all their games to stay alive in the tournament. Ambati Rayudu, who notched up an impressive 43-ball 59 in the last game, said the team was still bullish about their chances of making it to the play-offs. Yes, Saturday's result could have gone either way, but make no mistake,
Mumbai will need a more proactive approach as far as their batting is concerned. They rely a bit too heavily on that late flourish to reach competitive totals. And if it doesn't quite go to plan, they will invariably end up being 20 or 30 runs short of a winning total, like it happened against the Super Kings.
That their man in form, Kieron Pollard, came in with only 15 balls left was baffling. Surely, he needs to face more balls to make an impact on the game. Skipper Rohit had an off-day against Chennai too, and Mumbai will hope that was just a small blemish.
As far as Mumbai's team combination is concerned, Lendl Simmons, who came in for Ben Dunk, did reasonably well opening the batting. He should retain his place. The surprise inclusion, Praveen Kumar, didn't do too bad either with the new ball, picking up two wickets for 31 runs in his quota of four overs.
So there's no strong case for a change in personnel, but they need to start producing results. Well, they have no option now.