Rajasthan Royals – The True Winners

RR: Combination of talent and opportunity
RR: Combination of talent and opportunity

In the terms of mathematical logic, if we define set A as ‘Talent’ and set B as ‘Opportunity’, the intersection of the two sets can be called ‘Rajasthan Royals’.

Being a cricket fanatic, I would suggest you to ride the train from the local suburbs to Churchgate, walk to the Wankhede or the Brabourne stadium and watch a Ranji match. One should experience the thrill of a batsman playing the cover drive, the leg spinner pitching it in the rough and turning the ball almost by a foot. We are talking about witnessing the local talent here, who at the end of the day will take a train or ride a bus to go back home. Next day you may or may not get to read their names in the newspapers and as the time passes, you may forget their names.

Now, imagine yourself sitting at the jam-packed Wankhede, with the crowd shouting their lungs out and supporting Mumbai Indians. The local lad playing for the opposite team bowls a leg spinner, pitches it in the rough and the star batsman is bowled around his legs. Now will you remember the name of the local lad? I think it will be etched in your memories for a long time. This is exactly what IPL does to a player. Bringing the much smaller stars to the main galaxy and allowing them to shine. But does the local talent really get opportunities to showcase their game?

In any sport, opportunities play on the mental condition of a player. If Tendulkar wouldn’t have got the opportunity to open the innings on that fine morning in Auckland, he might have always played at No. 4 for India. On the similar lines, if Rooney aged 17 had not got a chance to play that evening for Everton against Arsenal, he wouldn’t have entered into the record books for being the youngest goal scorer in the Premier league. Athletes will never moan over the opportunities that went bad, but over the opportunities that never came by.

What I am trying to convey here is the fact that how small decisions play a vital role in the making of a bigger picture. S. Badrinath was a part of the team that had Hussey, Vijay, Raina, Dhoni and Hayden. This line-up never gave him a chance to showcase his talent. He was never seen as someone who could blast 40 off 20 balls. At the same time, Jadeja was turning out to be the ‘Rockstar’ of the RR team because he was made to realize that there was no one else to strike big in the lower order or bowl quick left arms in the middle overs. Jaddu’s talent met the right opportunities. Today, India cannot imagine their 2015 WC campaign without Jadeja. Rajasthan Royals as a team stand out for providing ample opportunities to a large number of local players. A team can do it for a year or two, but to build up a reputation of a ‘youngster – grooming’ club, the team atmosphere must be phenomenal.

1. Team Atmosphere

If there is one place where I would like to be during any of the IPL’s, it would be the RR team meetings. After their success over the past years, I am really curious about how and what the captains, coaches and the support staff speak to such a young and a relatively inexperienced squad. What would you say every day, if your job was just to make ordinary feel the extra-ordinary? Shane Warne, Rahul Dravid and Shane Watson have captained very mediocre teams but have instilled a self-belief into the players. The belief that winning is possible from any situation of the game and it does not matter whom you are pitted against. A phenomenal team atmosphere, rather than a coaching manual is responsible for grooming players. RR has the vision to acquire the best of the talents and make them play. Karun Nair scored a dazzling 151 in the Ranji semi-final for Karnataka. RR recognized his potential and provided him a chance to bat at the top of the order and his performance was more than just impressive.

Shane Warne
Warne: IPL 2008-11 | IPL 2008 Winner
Rahul Dravid
Dravid: IPL 2012-13 | CLT20 2013 Runners up
Shane Watson
Watson: IPL 2014

2. You can win a game – You play

Praveen Tambe has been the story of the IPL 2013 and 2014. One can imagine the impact in IPL 2013, after which he earned a call from Mumbai Ranji team. No other team in the IPL would play him, given his age, his swiftness in the outfield and his batting ability. Then why does RR? Well, RR simply believes in an individual possessing the talent to do enough on the cricket field. Tambe was not bought in the auction by most of the teams. RR was shy in buying him through the RTM. He was bought for a base price of Rs. 10 Lakhs and picked the wickets of iconic players like Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Kohli, Pietersen and Duminy. Tambe has had the heart to flight the ball to some of the biggest stroke-makers playing the game. For anyone growing up with an aim to play some serious cricket, Tambe is the story to read, to follow and to match.

Pravin Tambe
Pravin Tambe

3. The outside force

Unlike other teams, RR has picked some lesser known international stars in their line-up.Would you believe that Kane Richardson, who opened the bowling for RR, has bowled just 6 overs for the Australian Cricket Team? Kevon Cooper, the game changer, has played just 2 first class games for West Indies. Thus, they don’t have a habit of buying more than two high-profile foreigners. Like the head which wears the crown for them (read: Dravid), they believe in the power of simplicity than players having a lot of paparazzi around them. No wonder you don’t see Faulkner showing his love for his rivals before the game or does Watto waste his time and energy on sledging. It’s a pleasure to see these foreigners too marvel in the shadow of Dravid, with calm and cool head becoming a way of life for most of them, at-least while they wear the RR jersey.

4. The Youth

Karun Nair, Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson came in to bat at position 1, 2 and 3 for RR. If you have to pick top 3 for your batting line-up from all the IPL teams, these names might never appear on the list. RR has really played pivotal role in providing Indian cricket with such talented young cricketers. Karun Nair played the IPL 2014 with a strike rate of 142, which is an amazing number for a 22-year-old cricketer facing the best bowlers from around the world. Rahane did prove himself in New Zealand and is shaping into the mainstay of the RR batting line up. Dazzle is the word that can describe Sanju Samson’s performance in IPL 2014, who is turning out to be a huge prospect.

Karun Nair
Karun Nair
Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane
Sanju Samson
Sanju Samson

 

 

 

 

 

The previous day I saw a bunch of kids playing cricket. I stopped by to ask them which IPL team they would prefer to play for, if given a choice. Only one out of the ten kids wanted to play for RR. I was curious about his answer and asked him the reason. He smiled sheepishly and said, “Because I will really get to bat, if I played for that team.”

I believe that great leaders make great teams. It was Rahul Dravid who got a 19-year-old Kohli to play for RCB and it is Rahul Dravid again, who has got a 19-year-old Samson to play the IPL.

Images Courtesy: theguardian.com | ibnlive.in.com | iplt20wiki.com
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It is Time to Wear the Pragmatic Lens, because IPL seems to be in a Mess

“Can you really put a cap on what shockers the game of Cricket can produce? Can anyone just write off a team at any stage? Are the fans really assured of their team’s victory when it scores 200 odd runs in a T20 match? Do you really believe that miracles are not just myths?”

ipl
Source: EconomicTimes

Fearless chases have hit the top of each of our minds over the past one week with the Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders having shown us, like Harsha Bhogle aptly describes it “The brute force generated by monster bats, has begun to overcome what bowling can offer.”

No matter how many optimists out there choose to ignore what looks like a naked truth in their bid to avoid yet another heart-break, the time to put up the ‘realistic and practical’ lens seems to have arrived and the need is now more than ever before.

I am not asking questions on the basis of the last few matches but it is an observation that is being made for quite some time now. Philosophy has a quote, “Little drops of water make the ocean”, similarly, it is these small-small things that have now taken us to the point where we need answers more than the optimists who want to defend the game and turn on their blind eyes. When a large majority of people start asking questions, when a thousand men believe that there is something dodgy, when the Mudgal Committee is constantly denied a probe into our “Satyavadi” IPL, I cannot but choose not to be a defender of the game.

Here are my two cents and observations which prick my conscience constantly. It is not just this edition of the IPL but suspicion is being bred in the minds of the people, for a long time now. Here we go:

1) Our beloved “consumer-friendly” starsports.com has taken the pains to show a repeat of all matches since the start of this season including the toss. Kudos to their efforts and sensitivity to our needs. But my question to them would be that why the match replay of MI vs RR, played on 25th May, 2014, does not have the toss? We missed to shoot it, is it? Or was it of no importance that it could have been removed from the final take, oops the ‘true’ version put up for the consumer’s sake?

2) I would want to tell you a short story before I begin with my second observation. I remember when we were kids and were to host a cricket tournament; we would not release the fixtures until the teams for semi-finals were decided. The argument we used to do so within the organizing team was to ensure that our host team would play an easier opponent in the semis which would drastically improve our chances to reach the finals. Trust me it worked in 90% of the cases.

Okay, the story was just a “filler” because my editing team wants me to write at-least a 1000 words. Any resemblance to other parts of the article is totally co-incidental and not my intentions at all (LOL).

For any tournament, the mandate generally is that the entire fixtures list is out well before the tournament begins so that it helps the teams plan well. This becomes of prime importance from the franchise point of view to know how many do you play at home towards the most crucial business end of the tournament and who you play as well and that somewhere helps you plan better. What was surprising in this year’s IPL was that the phase 2 fixtures are decided in the middle of the tournament (How on earth did the franchisees even agree to this, I am still surprised) and somehow CSK and RR begin their ride on the losing-streak band wagon and dig a hole for themselves.

What adds fuel to the suspicion of the recent KKR and MI victories is the question if it was decided long back that KKR play the first qualifier at Eden gardens MI should play the eliminator in Mumbai? This guarantees a full house thus my doubts take me far enough to believe that this isn’t a script of just a 3 hr movie, it is a Sitcom series that we are witnessing, presently telecasting Season7.

No wonder, millions await to download the latest episode, oops to watch the latest match and see what happens to the protagonists. No prizes for guessing who the heroes are.

I had heard about SRK being banned from the Wankhede for a good number of years. I also had heard that they constantly wanted to shift the IPL finals away from Wankhede or quite some time now and they succeeded as well. Not allowing the DJ to be played post 10 pm is such a strong reason alongside a few other reasons as well. #justsaying

3) Time for yet another fun-filler (I choose to believe, unlike popular opinion, that I can be funny and so can be the fillers I write).

There lives a renowned King of the world who also is the father to 8 sons but only 1 of these was his real son, thus obviously the favourite one while rest were all adopted. These sons were addicted to gambling but were gladiators by profession and fought for 8 rich men from around the globe and participated in the Gladiators Premier League (GPL) each year. The favourite son, managed to enter the top 4 each year at GPL thanks to his excellent ‘mind’ which took risks and succeeded almost always. The King was always worried about the attention that his sons’ gambling brought to the family but somehow managed to shield them. As expected, 2 of the sons got caught for gambling which brought a lot of dis-repute to the family and made the public demand for death sentences for the 2 accused. This would have been a perfect example to set, but the King only wished so, since 1 of the 2 caught was his real son. Though he managed to save their face in front of the masses, justice had still to be met. So it was decided by the King’s council that if the sons wanted to stay alive, they pay for it in the upcoming GPL by way of early exits but to not make it too obvious and the sons were left with but no choice. These two sons started well and were comfortably en route to yet another top 4 as expected but then suddenly they started slipping and the brother who was also the defending champion, ousted one of the 2 accused to set up a quarter-final tie with the favourite son, the other accused, but was comfortably defeated there. This raised further questions on the ethics of these gladiators. The King was however happy that one of them was done paying for his sins. But now, it remains interesting to see if the King suddenly goes easy on his favourite son and believes the slip-up so far was enough a punishment and lets him taste victory again. Irrespective of who takes the cup home, the King continues to make money and to stay happy because he thinks the spectators are fools and would never come close to deciphering his tactics (ROFL).

I think the story was well detailed that I decide to give a pass to my third observation.

4) Continuing the previous story to make my final point. This is a tribute to the favourite son’s excellent ‘mind’ that was responsible for his brilliant display at GPL. This ‘mind’ was one of the most envied minds of the world not because of the power he held, but because of the calmness and risk taking inclination. Trust me, this ‘mind’ was once claimed to have ‘King Midas’ touch’ too. People made him their demi-god and often observed his each and every move closely. But ‘mind’ had to underplay his talent as per ‘daddy’s’ punishment so he decides to do funny things in the name of taking risks. One match he fought without a shield while in the next decided to fight with his left hand. What ‘mind’ believed would be applauded in the name of ‘risk’ unfortunately raised questions on his ability to lead. My only request to the people watching GPL would be that ‘mind’ remains to be one of the most brilliant one not only in GPL but also in the world. Do not mistake his moves in GPL to be his own, he might be just exercising ‘daddy’s’ orders. If it were his way, he would have preferred death rather than to put up a foolish face and lose respect.

My fourth observation is not just about the favourite son’s ‘mind’ but many other high-profile ‘minds’ in GPL. Their sudden dip in performance is temporary trust me. They are all but mere puppets, the strings are being held by people like the king in the ‘minds’ case.

I am the Master of my Fate, I am the Captain of my Soul

There are seldom moments in life when you choose your heart over better judgement and Mumbai Indian’s victory yesterday against the Rajasthan Royals was one of those numerous occasions especially for cricket lovers like me. While there are evidences that say the game was but just a script being played out, my heart refuses to believe and why shouldn’t it? Even a brilliantly scripted movie takes a number of re-takes before the final print is out but here while a million eyes are watching you, you got to be a damn good actor to pull it off in the first take itself.

Aditya Tare's football style celebration after hitting the winning sixLet us imagine that Tare knew he was going to get a full-toss which he needs to put away for a six. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I mean you keep dreaming about such a delivery all your life and what better than to get it as a first-up delivery which will make you a hero overnight and which could even give you a chance to mock the ‘humble and down-to-earth’ fellows like Watson and Faulkner. But imagine Faulkner would have ended up bowling it a bit slower than his normal pace, not deliberately but maybe the delivery could have slipped from his hand and what if this full toss would have caught the top edge and into the hands of some ‘I am the hulk-hogan’ freak like Cooper who believes in running to his dug-out after taking every wicket and that is not considered rude at all (LOL?) That one mis-hit would have not only stopped a hundred babies from becoming millionaires and a thousand from becoming slumdogs, it would have made Tare lose a lot more. The pressure would have been seen on this young lads face if he was out there playing the script, but what we saw was a calm head, more concerned about the chewing gum in the mouth and eyes locked at the second tier.

They say Watson could have run up to the crease to get Rayudu out rather than taking an aim at the wicket but what if Rayudu had beaten Watson then? Would we kind souls have spared the Aussie then, claiming that the best option would have been to take a hit from 5 mtrs away because I mean who misses from there? And not to forget to blame Dhaval Kulkarni who missed a sitter of a run-out when Rayudu was still far away from opening his account. And how Ravi never called out the away captains call during the toss, saying “Yeh toss hi fixed tha”. (My very good friend Schofield (Name Changed on his request) has very rightly pointed out that the toss for this game is not on the replay of this game on StarSports.com while this isn’t the case for any other match. I know Schofiled is right but I want to tell Schofield that my friend I don’t want to believe it because it will break my heart. I will choose my heart over better judgement here). This urge to go all out to prove that miracles are no longer a reality shows that it will still take a hell lot more for us to wash away the stains of the fixing scandal. Why no company makes a detergent for this?

So let’s just let our hearts take over better judgement this time and for those who choose to believe that yesterday was nothing less than one of those days when you see a bunch of young chaps determined to break away from the shackles of their fears which often handicaps us and pull off a miracle, should ideally read ahead. For those who still believe the game was mere a script, I thank you for your time so far and may the gods help you find something where you can really enjoy the thrill of a miracle.

Now from here on, let’s build on the part that is larger than life, the part where I spoke of a bunch of men who decided to conquer fear. Let’s take a look at it from a sports point of view. I will take you back to one of the most memorable comebacks of the recent past. No prizes for guessing but yes it’s 25th May 2005 and the venue being Istanbul. Knowing you are 3 goals to 0 down, against a team that boasts of the likes of Pirlo, Crespo, Shevchenco, Kaka, Maldini, would you ever give yourself any chance not at half time but even before the game starts? Well Steven Gerrards men did not because they had no option but because there was a ‘Belief’. Stevie G knew that what frees us from the clutches of our fears is not something beyond our control but something that we can actually channelize. Diego Simeone knew this and so did Jurgen Klopp and Tony Pulis and everyone else who was called an under-dog. Knowing that their backs are against the wall, they had absolutely nothing to lose; their minds took focus away from the fear and focused on a ‘Upset’.

It isn’t funny what humans are capable of, if they set their sights on something but the question is that do you really need your backs to be pushed against the wall for you to come up with something like this? Can you not just make it a habit to crush opposition time and again like how the Aussies did under Steve Waugh or how Ferguson’s men at Old Trafford did where they instilled fear in the opposition even before the game had started. The answer to it lies in the fact, “If you are such a strong team then your victories are no longer linked to your ability to conquer fear but they are attributed to the fact that you are already a Champion side.”

With what Yusuf did for Kolkata the day before or what Rayudu, Corey and Tare did for Mumbai, the success mantra to winning has to be chasing, no? I mean if you can chase down a 190 odd score with more than 25% of the allotted overs left, you can probably chase down anything under the sun. Then why don’t teams chasing win each and every time? Why do they need some Math guy to tell them that today you have to win in so and so number of overs or else you’re dead? Why can’t the coaches and team staff make it a habit to tell their players this every single time? Do we really need to wait till the end to finish a game? And think about this from the team bowling second’s point of view that just has to ensure that they don’t ‘lose’ within the stipulated overs. In such cases, do they suddenly stop believing that they can do it? Do they lose the mental battle well before they lose the on-field game? Does knowing the fact that even losing the game would still see them through, make them work less hard? What is the team staff doing? Why can’t the mandate still be to win at any cost? I know you will argue saying that no one wants to lose or plans to lose unless he is a Dhoni but then Why team meetings in such cases on the ground while the match is on be a constant reminder to the fielding side that it is okay to lose but beyond 14.3 overs? Is it that it is the team batting second almost conquers their fear way sooner than their counterparts which unleashes them to pull off a humongous 434 chase in a 50 over format or even a 190 odd chase in less than 75% of the legal allotted time like the Dutch did in the T20 world Cup or the Mumbai Indians did yesterday.

Does all of this go ahead and tell us something more profound about us human beings? That if we decide to not let our fears tie us down, our abilities are mammoth enough that we can beat the odds almost each and every time? I believe that it is this ‘break-away from the shackles of the forces tying us down’ which actually makes men stronger and we prefer to phrase it as “We just wanted to enjoy the game.” Sir, if you wanted to enjoy the game then you would have gotten a bag of pop-corn along as well but instead you chose to get some balls along. So while you like to put it up in a rosy manner, you should ideally learn to say, “Yes I want to outclass everyone today because I am not going to let my fears hold me back. Today is when I proclaim truly, that I am the Master of my Fate and I am the Captain of my Soul.”

Sports is a funny thing where every outcome often if not always teaches you a lesson for life. It reinstates your faith in the words ‘hope’ and ‘belief’ because you know your team is still hanging in there and miracles do surely happen. It shows you what winning really means when you see someone like a Rayudu break down knowing that they were so close yet so far, Ronaldo crying after the Champions League final victory over Chelsea, Federer breaking down after the record Wimbledon victories. Sorry to say but then these visuals can never be scripted, if you knew you were anyways going to win since the match was fixed over tea yesterday, unless you are a Vinod Kambli or a Sergio Busquets. It breaks your heart too but then has the capability to help you experience euphoria soon again and it presents you with the biggest irony where you pray to see the smile on Sachin’s face, which isn’t a rarity, honestly, but somewhere where you forget that those prayers would entail a frustrated Dravid throwing his cap on the ground, a guaranteed rarity.

A Gaylestorm not enough for RCB to win the IPL

Storyline from IPL auction which reject Gayle till today where RCB is trophy-less
RCB storyline

Royal Challengers Bangalore, in spite of Chris Gayle in their team since 2011 have not won any trophy. Let us analyse what went wrong in each season since Gayle joined RCB.

IPL 2011: Perfection until the end

Below is the summary of matches lost by RCB with Gayle in the team.

Image

This shows RCB lost all the matches when Gayle scored in single digits. Though, they had ranked 1 in the league stage, they went on to lose the 1st qualifier and the finals, coincidentally both against CSK.

IPL 2012: AB low scores hurt RCB

The otherwise consistent AB DeVilliers, proved to be huge factor this season for RCB.

Gayle and AB  comparison of averages in the won and lost games for RCB
Gayle and AB averages

Gayle was consistent in bagging the Orange cap for the 2nd year in the running (2011 and 2012). Although AB’s average dropped significantly for all the lost games giving an indication of AB’s contribution to RCB’s success in the 2012 season.

There was a match in the 2012 season where RCB played CSK and could not defend 205. The 28 run penultimate over in that match made sure Kohli never bowled for RCB thereafter. Unfortunately, RCB in spite of being tied with CSK on points could not go through the qualifiers due to net run rate.

IPL 2013: Losing most of the away games proved costly

2013 season, RCB lost more away games deviating from their 50% away games ratio
Away games in 2013 season proved costly for RCB

Rajasthan Royals have a phenomenal win record at Jaipur, which is now their fortress. The teams which manage to have a fortress and manage to win a few away games, always have an upper hand to reach qualifiers. But in 2013 season, RCB lost 6 out of their 8 away matches. In the span of 2008-2012, cumulatively, 50% matches were won away where interestingly, Gayle and AB both have healthy averages.

IPL 2014: Doubts and more doubts

Average scores of both 1st innings and 2nd Innings  diping this season
Trend of Average 1st innings and 2nd innings score

The three consecutive losses is certainly is not helping this year’s campaign. 70 all out against RR would have raised eye brows as it is the only instance when a team has scored less than 100, since IPL 2011. A steep decline in the average 1st innings score is quite a downfall for batsman dependent RCB. With Gayle just back in the last match, RCB would be hopeful of a better performance form the team in the upcoming matches in India.

Data Courtesy: ESPN Cricinfo

Mumbai Indians – Who can solve this puzzle?

If you want to talk about Mumbai Indians and IPL 2014 season in one statement, you will end up talking about the stalwarts MI has let go rather than those have come in. Moreover, the players who were let go are peaking at their form for other franchises. Glenn Maxwell is all set to give Punjab the moment of their IPL history. Dwayne Smith has not yet made CSK miss the services of Mike Hussey. Mitchel Johnson has been decent and can do better while, Karthik is yet to blossom at Delhi.

Mumbai Indians had an amazing campaign in 2012 and 2013. Winning the Champions league in 2011, IPL in 2013 and the Champions League 2013 was an epitome of their success. All the players aforementioned were responsible for carrying MI to the top. With Tendulkar gone, MI has lost the buzz and the retained players face a tremendous amount of pressure to perform well. Out of which, Ojha, Rayudu and Harbhajan look unsettled as they are fighting for a spot in the national team.

Progression chart for MI

Figure 1: League Standing for MI over IPL Seasons (Note: 2014 is the current season)

Mumbai Indians have been decent contenders over the past seasons. They have had players who could deliver at any phase of the tournament and turn results in their favor. However, this season’s campaign might not have started on the right note. Let’s analyze what MI lacks, which could be a deciding factor in their ranking in this season and their qualification for Champions League.

1. Chaos at the Auction

Before the auction, everyone was curious about MI’s strategy as the defending champions and how would they go about filling the void left by Tendulkar.

At first place, it was surprising to see Rayudu being retained, who according to a top order T20 batsman, had an average run for the past 3 IPL seasons. Rayudu could have been easily bought in the auction for a much lesser amount than what was paid to retain him.

Rayudu performance strike rate

Figure 2: Ambati Rayudu’s Strike-Rate over IPL seasons

Previous IPL seasons saw Rayudu batting ahead of Pollard, which was always a mystery. With ample opportunities and with an average strike rate of 120, MI really needs a better No. 3 batsman. Comparing it with Raina, who scores 145 runs/ 100 balls coming in at No. 3 for CSK.

Moreover, MI never considered to retain or to use RTM for Johnson. His performance peaked in the 2013 season taking 24 wickets at an economy and strike rate of 7.2 and 16 respectively. However, MI may survive with their current bowling department with Malinga leading the lot. Now, only concern remains that they get enough runs to defend.

2. No Firepower

Over the past 6 IPL seasons, MI’s opening slots have closely resembled the Indian economy – always unsettled. Mumbai Indians have started with Mike Hussey and Aditya Tare as their openers for this season. Dhawan, Gibbs, Levi, Ponting, M. Pandey, Smith are among the players who have been tried in the earlier seasons but only Smith was a successful experiment. So far, Hussey and Tare have been slow and disappointing.

Innings progression for MI

Figure 3: Innings Progression for MI in first 2 matches, IPL 2014

The scoring rate in the first 8 overs makes a huge difference to the total score. MI has had some decent starts in the first 2 games, but lost their way after losing a couple of wickets. Their slow starts have cost them the match against KKR where they scored just 22 runs from the 6th over to the 10th over. The match against RCB showcased the MI’s weak top order. After a good start at 49/1 in the 6th over, they lost a wicket and managed a meagre 14 runs in the next 4 overs. It is surprising that the statistics from both their games match-up close.

The top order is missing the firepower to maintain the momentum of a good start. Mike Hussey has passed his peak and has been away from the international arena for a while. Tare never looks to be a settled opener. And moreover, Rayudu coming in at no. 3 is just like a speed-bump in the middle of the highway. Just to bring out the numbers, Rayudu and Tare batted against RCB with a strike rate of less than 95. MI needs to fire at the top and that is possible if the best stroke-makers in the team play the maximum number of deliveries

Suggested Batting Order: Hussey, Tare/Rayudu, Sharma, Anderson, Pollard and the rest.

3. Poor Flexibility

Dwayne Bravo with 39 wickets in IPL 2013 has been ruled out of the IPL 2014. What does CSK do? They get in Hilfenhaus who bowled brilliantly against Delhi Daredevils. Similarly, RR replaced Hodge (out due to illness) with Steven Smith, another stroke-maker and a splendid fielder. Question here is, does Mumbai Indians enjoy this flexibility?

With the squad MI has, they are clearly missing out on another solid Indian batsman. If Sharma / Rayudu is injured, they do not have an Indian batsman waiting in the wings to go out and hit the ball. At the same time, Anderson and Pollard are just out of injuries and may take time to find their feet. Replacing Hussey with Dunk could serve as an option, but apart from that, there is a very little flexibility in the batting unit. As far as the bowling goes, Santokie can replace Malinga (if injured) but that would be a depleted bowling attack to pair up with a shaky batting order.

4. Out of form match-winners

Someone like Yuvraj Singh, playing along with Gayle, AB, Kohli and Morkel can afford to have some quiet matches and take his time to return to the form. MI does not enjoy the luxury  as that of RCB. Every match-winner in MI has to hit the bull’s eye in order to put their team in a winning position.

Pollard scored a stunning hundred in the Caribbean League after a 6 month lay-off and is waiting for his chance in this IPL. Hussey, Harbhajan and Sharma are in the similar situation, with all of them waiting to hit the right chords. Corey Anderson is a big hope after his Blitz-Krieg hundred, but has not played much international cricket after that. With Malinga being the only in-form match winner for MI, things look a little tough as compared to other franchisees.

At present, MI resembles a boxer whose nose is bleeding just before entering the ring. Looking at how other teams are shaping up with their options, it seems that MI fans are going to have a very tough season ahead. It has been just 2 games so far, but MI needs to peak before it is too late. Not IPL 2013, but IPL 2014 season will go down in the history of Mumbai Indians, if they make it in the top 4.