The Mumbai Indians' head coach Mahela Jayawardene feels that his batters have adapted well to the challenge of playing on slow wickets in Chennai, but there are areas where the team could "still improve", referring to the middle-overs batting especially in their previous match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
After successfully defending 152 against the Kolkata Knight Riders, the Mumbai bowlers were once again adept in their defence of 150 against the Sunrisers. Legspinner Rahul Chahar starred again as he turned the game around with contributions from Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult, as Sunrisers fell from 71 for 1 to 137 all out in the chase. But on both occasions, Mumbai's batting never hit top gear, especially in the middle overs where they considerably slowed down after getting off to a decent start in the powerplay. Against the Sunrisers, Rohit Sharma's efforts took them to 53 for 0 in the powerplay but Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Vijay Shankar applied the squeeze thereafter, which meant their run rate never crossed 7.50 after the tenth over.
"Probably the last game was a bit of an off one for us but the previous two games I think our tempo was very good," Jayawardene said. "Overall, we are very happy but knowing Rohit, he will keep pushing the guys. If we haven't hit those marks, he will bring it up and want us to improve. I think last game we have to consider that we were up against two quality spinners in Rashid and Mujeeb, especially in the middle overs, and at the same time we lost a couple of wickets.
"You aren't going to have the same breakfast every day, right? So if we keep having the same thing, it's quite easy for the opposition to plan against us. So we would like to try and change depending on the opposition, on the conditions" Mahela Jayawardene
"I think considering all that, we handled the situation better to set it up in the last two overs and get that par score. We always try and get to the par score on the day on that wicket would be a good score. There are areas we could improve but pretty happy how things are."
The Sunrisers bowlers, on Saturday, exploited the slowness of the surface, conceding just a single boundary between overs ten to 16. The onus was once again on Mumbai's lower middle order to drag them to a competitive total, just as they had done against the Knight Riders. After the match, Sharma had also said that they could do better in the middle overs, but was mindful of the fact that it hasn't been easy to bat at the venue especially against spinners. "I thought we had a good score for this pitch," Sharma had told Star Sports. "Having said that, we can do better in the middle overs. The pitch is getting slower and slower, bowlers are always in the game till 20 overs. Even the seamers, it's not easy to get them away and the slowish nature makes it harder for the batter to slog straightaway".
"Yes, the wickets are slightly on the slower side but still seeing scores of 150-160, the other day we saw 200," Jayawardene said. "On a given day depending on the opposition how you approach can have that different variable. They are not unplayable wickets. They are good competitive wickets and adjusting to those challenges is always the key for any batsman. I think we've been consistent with that approach. It's been challenging but we have adapted pretty well. Sometimes we'll make mistakes and that's part of the game."
On the day, Mumbai also sent Kieron Pollard to bat at No. 5, ahead of Hardik Pandya - a move that paid off - as he blasted an unbeaten 22-ball 35. Jayawardene put the move down just to tactics, adding that they also wanted Pollard to get more time in the middle.
"You aren't going to have the same breakfast every day, right? So if we keep having the same thing, it's quite easy for the opposition to plan against us. So we would like to try and change depending on the opposition, on the conditions.
"Especially in this kind of competition, we need to keep everyone guessing on what we are going to do. That was the process. Obviously, Polly [Pollard] got a bit more time in the middle early season, which we could give him in the first few games. We have a very versatile line-up where guys can bat depending on situations. They understand we're going to utilise that."