The Mumbai team is a notoriously slow starter in the Indian T20 League but this time there was a clear reason for their early struggles. Their batsmen were just not able to adjust to the slow and sticky nature of the pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
The change in venue to the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi has immediately brought out their aggressive nature, as they hunted down a stiff 218 against Chennai in their previous match.
The defending champions won just two of their five games at Chepauk, and even that was because of their bowlers. Their scores became progressively poor in Chennai: 159, 152, 150, 137 and 131, suggesting that exposure was not resulting in acclimatisation.
Mumbai’s love for Wankhede
Mumbai are used to the free-flowing conditions at the Wankhede Stadium, where the ball comes on to the bat at good height, and the ground dimensions are small enough to allow their batsmen to hit all the sixes and fours they rely on. Their power-hitting lower-middle order of the Pandya brothers and Kieron Pollard can muscle the ball over the boundary, knowing that hitting through the line and on the rise carries lesser risk at the Wankhede. In the heavier conditions of Chennai, though, Rohit Sharma’s men just could not find their range.
Cut to Delhi, and Mumbai have already won two chases in two. Batting second is also more suited to their style, and they never did that in Chennai. The outfield at the Arun Jaitley Stadium is smaller than the one at Chepauk, and the ball has come on much better than on the Chennai surface, as can be seen from the higher totals produced in Delhi so far. Batsmen scored 23.07 runs a wicket at 7.65 runs an over in Chennai. The corresponding figures in Delhi are much steeper at 44.38 and 9.61.
In Delhi, Mumbai batsmen can better target specific bowlers, and hit their way out of pressure with sixes, something they like to do. It is what Pollard did against Ravindra Jadeja in the game against Chennai.
“They had four overs of spin to bowl on a small ground," Pollard said. "So I wanted to see if I could hit a couple of sixes off spinners firstly and then try to take it from there. When you see the conditions, the pitch and the bowlers, you know if you stay in for a period of time… the ground is small, and a couple of sixes were always going to keep us in the game."
While Pollard is renowned for hitting huge sixes against pacers at the death, it is his targeting of spin in the middle overs that often keeps the defending champions in the game come the slog overs. Pollard’s strike-rate in Chennai this season was only 116. On Saturday, he hammered 87 off only 34 at a strike-rate of 256.
Mumbai have two more games left to play in Delhi. They have started to look like their usual dangerous self, and that is not good news for their next opponents, the struggling Hyderabad.
Featured photo: Twitter / Delhi Capitals