Rohit Sharma’s poor form and fragile bowling attack: The tale of the Mumbai Indians IPL 2023 campaign

Defending Champions Gujarat Titans defeated the five-time champions Mumbai Indians by 62 runs in the Qualifier-2 of the Indian Premier League 2023. It has been a campaign which has been bittersweet for Mumbai Indians as despite the injury-struck bowling department, Rohit Sharma managed to maximise the resources at their disposal.

Nevertheless, all the bowling nightmares popped up when Shubman Gill played arguably one of the best innings of the IPL history in terms of both aesthetics, substance, and context. Though one would say the destruction of this magnitude is unprecedented and can happen to any side in the T20 format on an off-day, with Mumbai’s bowling it has been coming.

They have conceded over 200 runs five times this tournament. The bowling performance against Lucknow Super Giants has flattered to deceive many. The sheer history of the franchise gave a glimmer of hope for another trophy despite the cracks in the side. However, everything fell apart on Friday.

Bumrah-Archer dream

In the 2022 auction, despite being fully aware of the Archer’s injury status and his unavailability for that season, Mumbai brought him for a whopping eight crores expecting returns in the long term. As they say, hindsight is 20/20, it may seem like a bad purchase now but the thought itself of him bowling alongside Bumrah would have sent shivers down the spine of the teams when the purchase was made. However, two seasons have gone by and it still remains a dream. Last season they had Bumrah available but finished 10th in the table due to a different set of issues. This season, though, the side was dealt an impossible hand of missing both of them.

The withdrawal of Bumrah due to a back injury has been a knockout punch for the franchise even before the tournament started. Given the way the team was structured, coping without him was going to be impossible as he was a lone-international quality bowler in that set-up as the franchise chose not to invest any in 2022 and 2023 auctions.

On the other hand, Archer did start the tournament for Rohit’s side, however, missed games frequently due to a recurring elbow injury and was replaced by his international teammate Chris Jordan, who unsurprisingly failed to impress. In a big game against the Titans, the experienced campaigner gave away 56 runs in his four-over spell and was the expensive bowler on the night. Throughout the tournament, he failed to deliver and missed his mark consistently at the death going at 12.50 runs per over.

However, with Rohit’s shrewd captaincy, Piyush Chawla’s resurgence and Aakash Madhwal’s heroics in the second half of the tourney, MI became a functional bowling side. Yet they still have been going 9.40 runs per over which is the highest of any side this tournament.

Where are the runs skipper?

Earlier in the month former Indian selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth said “Rohit Sharma should change his name to ‘No hit Sharma’, I will not even play him in XI if I was Captain of MI.”

Such has been the downfall of Rohit this season. He tried to be proactive at the top and lead his team by example, laying down the marker on the brand of cricket he wanted his side to play but the approach backfired horribly for him personally as he could only manage 332 runs at an average of 20.75.

“I think give yourself a little bit more time. His shot selection is not the greatest. He mentioned he has a different role to play. But give yourself that little bit more time, his great strength is his ability to play cricketing shots and he has more time than a lot of players in the world when it comes to playing the quicks,” former Indian coach Ravi Shastri said about his approach speaking to Star Sports. Similar sentiments were expressed by Virender Sehwag as well.

Despite playing in one of the best batting conditions in Wankhede, Rohit could not make an impact. With many young batters in the side and conditions away from home where wickets play differently, the onus was on Rohit at the top to deliver and shepherd his side to victories which he failed to do this season yet again.

Takeaways going into the next season

“Our batting has been the biggest positive, some of the younger players especially and take it to next season and see what you can do,” said Rohit after the loss against the Titans.

The likes of Nehal Wadhera, Tilak Varma and Australia’s Cameron Green have grown leaps and bounds throughout the season. Despite being inexperienced at this level they showed excellent temperament and stepped up with the bat at different stages of the tournament.

With talisman Suryakumar Yadav, pocket-size dynamo Ishan Kishan and Tim David all part of the set up the batting of the side seems to be in good hands. The young South African Dewald Brevis who has been displaying his heroics across the franchise world wasn’t even needed this season showing the depth of resources available to the side.

In terms of bowling, Madhwal has been a big plus for the side. If Bumrah could come back (how effective he would be on his comeback, only time will tell) the bowling will be in better shape. However, they need to address the spin bowling department. Although Piyush Chawla has picked up 22 wickets from 16 games and was the best bowler for Mumbai this season he is not getting any younger.

Youngsters Hrithik Shokeen and Kumar Kartikeya despite being given ample opportunities throughout the season failed to impress. The franchise may go into the auction and look for a decent spinner and a less injury-prone overseas bowler for the 2024 season.

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