With the race for playoffs intensifying, captain Rohit Sharma's form with the bat and bowling in the death overs will be a huge concern for hosts Mumbai Indians when they meet Royal Challengers Bangalore in a mid-table IPL 2023 clash on Tuesday. (More Cricket News)
With 184 runs in 10 matches at a forgettable average of 18.39 and a solitary half-century, Sharma is enduring a second consecutive poor season with the bat.
For the sixth-placed Mumbai Indians to move up in the points table, it is imperative that their best batter in the line-up fires.
Sharma's role in this IPL has been to provide brisk starts at the top, and at times he has had some success too, but consistency has deserted the right-arm batter whose early dismissal in huge chases has only added pressure on a relatively new batting line-up, which fortunately, from MI's point of view, has delivered too.
Mumbai Indians' head coach Mark Boucher admitted a few games ago that consistency could get compromised if any batter goes out of his way to look for runs, but for Sharma, one of the highest run-getters in the IPL, it is becoming a pattern.
In last year's IPL, which also was MI's poorest in terms of performance as they finished last, Sharma averaged a little over 19 while scoring 268 runs in 14 matches.
However, with Sharma not firing at the top, MI have had the likes of Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and Cameron Green consolidating in the middle while Tilak Varma and Tim David have also found their groove as finishers late in the order.
MI tried taking pressure off Sharma by sending him at No. 3 in their last game against Chennai Super Kings, but it was a move that worked for none of the parties involved. Sharma endured his second consecutive duck and fourth single-digit score on the trot while an otherwise firing Green fell for six at the opening slot.
MI could only make a poor 139/8 in CSK's homeground, losing an away game to their arch rivals for the first time in 13 years.
At the same time, Mumbai Indians will also be concerned about their death overs bowling, having conceded four consecutive totals in excess of 200 while bowling first, two of which were recorded on flat decks here at the Wankhede Stadium.
On the other hand, RCB will hope that their troika of Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell fire at the top, since whenever they have done so collectively, the team has found itself mostly on the right side of the results.
Mahipal Lomror struck a quality 54 against Delhi Capitals but his knock was not enough as RCB suffered a shock defeat, which kept them at the fifth spot in the points table with five wins and as many defeats in 10 matches.
With 511 runs, Du Plessis is the only batter this season to have crossed the 500-run mark and RCB will hope that their skipper gets going with others in his tow to a big total if they bat first.
But it remains to be seen if RCB have more in their batting shelf apart from the big three, who have done the heavy lifting so far in the IPL. Dinesh Karthik has failed with the bat this season and RCB also do not have a big hitter in their lower-middle order either.
The inclusion of Josh Hazlewood has provided a shot in the arm to RCB's bowling with Mohammed Siraj at the helm, having snaffled 15 wickets in 10 matches so far.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (c), Jofra Archer, Arshad Khan, Jason Behrendorff, Dewald Brevis, Piyush Chawla, Tim David, Raghav Goyal, Cameron Green, Ishan Kishan (wk), Duan Jansen, Chris Jordan, Kumar Kartikeya, Akash Madhwal, Riley Meredith, Shams Mulani, Ramandeep Singh, Sandeep Warrier, Hrithik Shokeen, Tristan Stubbs, Arjun Tendulkar, Tilak Varma, Vishnu Vinod, Nehal Wadhera, Suryakumar Yadav.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Faf du Plessis (c), Akash Deep, Finn Allen, Anuj Rawat, Avinash Singh, Manoj Bhandage, Michael Bracewell, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Siddarth Kaul, Virat Kohli, Mahipal Lomror, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Siraj, Wayne Parnell, Harshal Patel, Suyash Prabhudessai, Rajan Kumar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Karn Sharma, Himanshu Sharma, Sonu Yadav, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Kedar Jadhav.