IPL 2022: Punjab Kings emerge winners, but Mumbai Indians give a glimpse of their future potential

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IPL 2022: Punjab Kings emerge winners, but Mumbai Indians give a glimpse of their future potential
© Provided by Firstpost IPL 2022: Punjab Kings emerge winners, but Mumbai Indians give a glimpse of their future potential

Three wins out of five. Third in the points’ table after Matchday 23. Highest scoring rate during powerplay overs. In terms of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 action, these three statistics define Punjab Kings. Delve a bit deeper, and it isn’t a well-oiled machine just yet.

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At best, Punjab can be defined as a sum of different parts. Mayank Agarwal is still finding his feet as captain, but has taken over the mantle of scoring from KL Rahul admirably. Shikhar Dhawan is doing what he does best. Coach Anil Kumble is fiddling with the jigsaw pieces, trying to solve it. Liam Livingstone is playing true to his reputation. Kagiso Rabada, Jonny Bairstow, Bhanuka Rajpaksa and Odean Smith provide the overseas mix. Led by Arshdeep Singh, a young India-centric bowling attack is exceeding itself.

Sum of different parts that are trying hard to click together, indeed, and in an IPL-reset season, it seems to be working somehow for Punjab. Will it keep clicking in this fashion? It is tough to say, for wins and losses are coming alternately at the moment. Punjab needs more winning momentum in a season full of early attrition.

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For Mumbai Indians, well, there is only losing momentum. The 12-run loss to Punjab on Thursday means five consecutive losses for the five-time champions. Funnily enough, this franchise is no stranger to either title triumphs or such losing streaks. In 2014, it lost the first five games on the bounce and yet made the knockouts. A year later, in 2015, it lost first four on the bounce and went on to lift the IPL trophy.

Mathematically, Mumbai is still not out of it with nine games in hand. There is precedence to qualify for the knockouts with only 12 points – Sunrisers Hyderabad did it in 2019. However, a 10-team tournament means that calculations across the table will be stretched. The top-half is already looking bunched and there will be more than two teams to fall off early. Even 14 points may not be sufficient this time, with as many as three teams expected to fight it out on net run-rate. The top teams will be targeting a minimum 16 points for an assured safety path to the knockouts.

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Despite their pathetic start to the season, Mumbai Indians will not throw in the towel. This is a champion franchise, and there is too much pride to just let things be, even if this downward trend continues. Like on Wednesday night, this team will fight and give all on the field. That moment between Kieron Pollard and Suryakumar Yadav, after the former was run-out, encapsulates this spirit.

SKY was disconsolate for his part in the run-out, knowing full well that he needed Pollard’s heavy-hitting to win the game. For his part, the big West Indian walked up to SKY and consoled him, spoke to him, told him that he must lift himself up to finish the job. It is immaterial whether SKY was able to help Mumbai cross the finish line or not. The bonding and unity in this very tough moment, along with SKY’s fight to win the game thereafter, mattered more.

On air, commentator Danny Morrison spoke about how that run-out was indicative of Mumbai’s start to this IPL season. “Miscommunication and confusion,” he said.

The latter bit ranks true on the field. This is nowhere close to the title-winning squad that Mumbai Indians built up over the years, culminating in back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020. The former bit, well, you wonder if the miscommunication bit began at the auction table back in February.

Roll back the months, and arrive at the moment when Mumbai went in for Jofra Archer. This is a pacer not available until IPL 2023 atleast and yet the winning hammer landed in Mumbai’s favour. From the very reset of this IPL cycle, Mumbai has been building for the future. It is seen in every move — whether in landing Archer, the 15.25 crore super bid for Ishan Kishan, or the move to go for Dewald Brevis even.

The cost of getting Kishan is actually higher in reality. The cost of letting go of Quinton de Kock, Trent Boult, Krunal Pandya and Rahul Chahar should be added herein. There is also the opportunity cost of not bidding for certain other valuable players. Yuzvendra Chahal is a name that comes to mind. He went for a meagre INR 6.5 crore, when Mumbai needed a spinner still. If it had entered the bidding, it would have certainly elevated Chahal’s pricing as well as cost Mumbai a pretty penny to land him.

The question to ask here is, if the Mumbai Indians’ owners and team management really mind? The answer, perhaps, is no, for that is the cost of a future build.

Mind you, this isn’t the same as a rebuild. You look at Chennai Super Kings, and that’s precisely what it needs — scratch out the old plans and ring in new changes, build from scratch. Meanwhile, Mumbai acted smartly. They recognised that the auction pool and squads would be stretched thin across 10 teams. They are two steps ahead in that rebuild and don’t need to start from scratch even.

They have banked on the likes of Kishan, Tilak Varma and Brevis for the longer term. This is the new core of Mumbai Indians that will be retained year-on-year when the likes of Rohit Sharma, SKY and Pollard are done.

Just look at Brevis – every time he bats for 15-20 deliveries, there is a raging storm at the ground. His four sixes against Chahar’s leg spin came at will, a reminiscent of AB de Villiers’ batting style and not only because he is aptly named ‘Baby AB’. Brevis truly is a force of nature, and he will probably rule the T20 charts across the globe within the next three years.

Varma, meanwhile, is fast becoming another quintessential product of the Mumbai Indians’ factory. This is the season when he samples all bowling attacks, assimilates key learning and grows as a batsman further, following on the footsteps of SKY. In a couple years’ time, he will be the mainstay of that batting line-up. And then there is Kishan, of course, who is being primed to be the next Mumbai Indians’ leader, in the post-Rohit era.

There isn’t much Mumbai need to rectify what’s missing this season. At the next auction, it will look for a quality spinner, another lower-order all-rounder (pace or spin), and perhaps another pacer to complement Archer-Jasprit Bumrah. Until then, it will absorb these painful blows. This team will probably not qualify for the knockouts this season, let alone win the IPL altogether, even if it isn’t throwing in the towel yet.

Even so, make no mistake, Mumbai is building another all-conquering team, one that will dominate IPL for the coming five-to-eight years, and its birthing signs are quite visible already.

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