Five teams have lifted the Indian Premier League title in six editions and only Chennai Super Kings, as winners of 2010, went on to retain the title the next year. The current defending champions, Mumbai Indians, though may not do a CSK.
But, Rohit Sharma & Co. cannot be completely ruled out of the playoffs race, yet. With three wins from 10 games and languishing at seventh in the eight-team competition, just above Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians will finish with a maximum of 14 points if they win all their remaining four matches.
But to do that, they need to put up a mammoth effort as they run into No. 3 placed Rajasthan Royals on May 19 in Ahmedabad and on May 25 in Mumbai, table toppers and easily the flavour of the league, Kings XI Punjab, on May 21 in Mohali besides Daredevils on May 23 in Mumbai.
A lot of things need to click at the same time for a team to do well right from the start. To the defending champions' bad luck, the players that they let go before this year's auctions – Glenn Maxwell and Dwayne Smith – are currently holding the top two positions for the most runs scored this league. Mumbai Indians' loss is KXIP's and CSK's gain. It is not Mumbai Indians' fault to let go as had they had a crystal ball and seen what the 2014 league had in store for them, they would have gleefully retained them.
Among the players they retained, left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, a key performer along with skipper Sharma and wicket-keeper batsman Ambati Rayudu in last year's title triumph, found the going tough so much so that after just one wicket in seven matches, he had to warm the bench for three matches. And among their leading buys, Michael Hussey, a match-winner in his own right for Chennai Super Kings until last year, was a big flop with just 30 runs from four matches before he was dropped.
As Sharma admitted before their last home game against CSK, "As a captain you look forward to getting a big performance. We were bowling well in Dubai, but batting wasn't clicking. In India, both departments are doing well."
Not quite, as after after losing all their five matches in UAE, Mumbai had to win all their nine matches to put themselves into playoffs. That they lost two of the five matches here so far has only worsened their chances.
As always, Harbhajan Singh and Lasith Malinga have held their combined eight overs tight but the rest have bowled well in patches. Injury to Zaheer Khan as he was getting his rhythm and ruling him out has not made things any easy for Mumbai.
In batting, Mumbai have tried five different opening combinations with six players – Hussey, Aditya Tare, Sharma, Ben Dunk, CM Gautam and Lendl Simmons – and nothing has clicked. Their best start was only 25 while the West Indian seems to have settled in to the role quite well.
Poor starts, added by the inconsistency of Kieron Pollard, have put too much pressure on Rayudu and Sharma. As former India wicket-keeper Kiran pointed out: "When you are defending champions, you are under a lot of pressure to repeat the feat the next year. Rohit, Rayudu and Ojha who were the key to last year's success, have put a lot of pressure on themselves as there are a lot of expectations. Even the change in the team composition added to the pressure. Not getting a good start to the tournament put Ojha under pressure. When you have to win, you need wickets from your key bowlers. Harbhajan Singh and Lasith Malinga have been fantastic, though."
More was hopeful of Mumbai Indians winning all their remaining matches. "There is an outside chance for MI to qualify for the playoffs. Mumbai have a good enough winning combination but need luck besides other results and rain at certain venues going in their favour," he said.
As Sharma has always maintained, Mumbai Indians need to take it one game at a time and hope for the best.
Where Mumbai lost it
24 vs KKR, 20 vs RCB, 11 vs CSK, 10 vs DD, 6 vs SRH, 6 vs KXIP, 25 vs RCB, 16 vs CSK, 2 vs SRH, 12 vs KKR
Kieron Pollard's inconsistency:
6 (8b) vs KKR
3 (7b) vs RCB
12 (11b) vs CSK
33* (30b) vs DD
78 (48b) vs SRH
28* (12b) vs KXIP
43 (31b) vs RCB
0 (1b) vs CSK
6* (7b) vs SRH
10* (11b) vs KKR
Pragyan Ojha: 7 matches, 1 wicket, 8.29 economy rate, 224 average