IPL 2014 May 3, 2014

Too many thinking caps for Mumbai?

A team management packed with former international greats may not be the ideal solution for the floundering Mumbai Indians

Sachin Tendulkar stood behind the dressing room door in Dubai, shadow-practising strokes he once played in the middle. Out in the centre, Kieron Pollard was trying hard - eventually in vain - to stabilise the Mumbai Indians' middle order against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their final match of the IPL's UAE leg. How sorely Mumbai have missed Tendulkar's calming presence in the XI this year.

But, if we dare ask, is Tendulkar causing a distraction with his presence in the dressing room? The batsman had announced his retirement from the IPL last year, but the franchise appointed him as an icon. In addition to being the franchise's brand ambassador, Tendulkar is also around during the team's training sessions.

Tendulkar, however, is not the only great player on the Mumbai coaching roaster. Anil Kumble is the chief mentor, John Wright is the head coach, Jonty Rhodes is the fielding coach and, recently, Ricky Ponting joined as consultant. The stars are followed by a second line of assistant coaches, which includes former India allrounder Robin Singh.

Little wonder then that a member of another franchise's coaching staff mockingly said that Mumbai's coaching line-up looked better than their playing XI after five straight defeats this season. Is there a possibility this collection of greats in the dressing room, all mighty thinking heads, may also be intimidating and distracting for some of the younger players?

There are three sets of players in the Mumbai squad. The first is a senior one, comprising Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Michael Hussey and Lasith Malinga. The second is made up of slightly more experienced hands, like Rohit Sharma, Pollard and Ambati Rayudu, and then the rookies.

Having played with or against most of the coaching staff, the senior players can easily achieve a level of comfort. But what about a younger player, or even an experienced domestic player like CM Gautam, who may be hesitant about opening up to the senior coaches?

Tendulkar, Kumble and Ponting could detect a fault in a player's technique with half an eyelid open, but they are not around the players for the rest of the year. Even if they try and iron out a technical crease, it may add pressure on the player to make that change quickly.

In a dynamic format like T20, the most crucial man is the captain. Coaches and consultants can help with all kinds of preparations off the field, but on the ground, it is Rohit's responsibility to make quick, calculated decisions. However, with so many heads outside and so many seniors in the squad, does Rohit really have the space to grow and express his leadership?

Mumbai often seem to be the Real Madrid of T20 club cricket: the franchise has always shown a tendency to associate with big names. The franchise might defend itself, saying it won the IPL and the Champions League T20 titles with these men around. But the big difference between then and now is that Tendulkar and Ponting were in those teams as players, as were Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson, who are no longer with the franchise.

Good teams invest in and persist with talent. Mumbai missed the mark by releasing Maxwell and Johnson. That miscalculation may already have cost the defending champions a play-off berth.

'Keep it simple' is the mantra of a successful team and there is no better example of that than Chennai Super Kings over the last six years. Kings XI Punjab are doing the same this season. For Mumbai, a balanced squad rather than a galaxy of former stars on the coaching staff would serve them better in the future.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo