However, the one aspect where Mumbai are far ahead of other teams is fielding. The wall of a Symonds-Sharma-Pollard-Saty.hish offside cordon is a hard one to break on just about any day, to say nothing about their contribution in terms of some absolutely brilliant catches. Add to this improved fielding from other members, such as Malinga, who ordinarily is only a languid fielder, a genuine keeper in Jacobs and the reliable hands of Tendulkar and Harbhajan, and you can almost get away with having Munaf sit in a corner somewhere, out of harms way. To be faThe Ryir to him though, even Munaf has been making a bit of an effort with his ungainly slides. It only adds to the pressure.
And so, Mumbai have been generally winning games at a canter. They were only seriously troubled by Kochi, who were aided by a couple of brilliant innings from McCullum and Jayawardene. Even Chennai, who threatened to make a game of it, crumbled in the face of the best ever fielding performance seen in the IPL.
Some observations and rants at the Cricinfo types:
- There really is nothing left to be said about Tendulkar that isn't already a cliché, and even this is a cliché. So I am going to talk about Rohit Sharma, my second most favourite player on the team - I do have a soft spot for players from Mumbai. A lot of people were questioning his price tag of $2 million, but as he has shown in the previous editions, he is a very consistent performer, at least in the IPL. I always thought that Deccan made a huge mistake in letting him go, but it was just as well for Mumbai, who were keen on getting him for the past 2 years. I really hope he can use this season as a launching pad for more consistent performances at the national level. While his talent is in no doubt, he even showed a willingness to grit it out in the Ranji Trophy last year. Hopefully this is the start of greater things for him.
- Cricinfo's quick evaluation that Mumbai's attack is heavily dependent on Malinga after the Kochi defeat, and its equally quick retraction after the Chennai victory was really irritating. Obviously, when you have a bowler of Malinga's caliber, you look to him to provide the early breakthroughs and soften up the opposition. But it does not follow that the team is a one man attack when the bowling is taken apart. The Kochi bowling performance was really just an off day. Sure Malinga's absense would hurt, no doubt, but it doesn't mean that there are no other bowlers capable of taking wickets or stemming the flow of runs.
- Everyone and his uncle has been tagging Ali Murtaza as the team's weakest link. He probably is not assured of his place in every game, but I think that the tag is patently unfair to him. For one, he is playing ahead of players such as Dhaval Kulkarni and Abu Nechim (though Nechim did get a look in ahead of Murtaza against Chennai and Deccan). For another, the guy bowls with a lot of heart, and has generally gone about his job in a quiet manner, often opening the bowling. In fact, he is at his best (in terms of economy rate) when he is bowling in the powerplay overs, conceding only 5.33 RPO at this stage. Quite a valuable asset to have then. One aspect of his game he needs to improve on, though, is on how he tends to fall away in the fourth over of his spell, conceding 9.50 RPO, as against an RPO of 6.60 otherwise. He is, however, not a death bowler, which perhaps explains this oddity, as most of his fourth overs have come in the last 5 overs of an innings. Still, when Mumbai need a second spinner, they could do far worse than given Murtaza an extended run.