Mumbai Indians v Sunrisers, IPL 2014, Dubai April 29, 2014

Can Mumbai end Arabian nightmare?

Match facts

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Start time 1830 local (1430 GMT, 2000 IST)

Play 06:02
Agarkar: Can't see Mumbai playing Hussey again

The big picture

There is this joke going around on social media. A judge asks a boy who he would like to stay with - his mother or his father. None, because both of them beat me, he says. "I would like to say with Mumbai Indians, as they beat no one." It has been a horror first one-third of the season for the defending champions, and they are in danger of returning home without a single win from the UAE leg of the IPL.

Till their title win, the criticism of Mumbai Indians used to be that despite having a galaxy of overseas and Indian heavyweights, they would often fall short at crucial stages of a game. But compete they would more often than not, till this season. Scores of 122, 115, 141 and 125 do not win you T20 games, unless your bowling has an exceptional day. The one time Mumbai Indians bowled first in UAE, they conceded 163.

Mumbai Indians have had running problems with the opening partnership in several seasons, and this season has been no different. By their fourth game, they realised that the man who has reinvented himself successfully as a limited-overs opener for India is also an option at the top of their order. Before that, Rohit Sharma was coming in with too much to do after the pair of Michael Hussey and Aditya Tare had failed to provide the kind of starts their side needed.

With fewer games per side this season, Mumbai Indians cannot really afford to keep piling up the losses. Sunrisers Hyderabad are in only a slightly better position with one victory. Their batting looked top-heavy coming into the season, and the fears have come true so far, with a thin middle order unable to step up when the powerful batsmen do not fire upfront. At least the strengths and weaknesses are clearer in Sunrisers' case. Mumbai Indians, as has been the case in the past too, seem to be misfiring without any standout reason.

Players to watch

Rohit Sharma replaced Ricky Ponting as captain last season and led Mumbai Indians to their maiden IPL title after years of disappointment. He then had a productive Champions Trophy and has finally started to deliver on his long-standing promise for India. He has an army of advisors off the field in the Mumbai Indians support staff but his challenge is to filter the gallons of inputs he must be receiving and translate it into a turnaround quickly.

Rohit can turn to the experience of 2013 but this is new territory for Shikhar Dhawan the captain. Further, his own limited-overs form hasn't been great coming into the tournament. He had to sit out an ODI in New Zealand and was also left out for the knockout stage of the World T20. Not only will he have to revive his side's campaign as its leader, he will also have to contribute majorly with the bat, something he has not managed so far.

Stats and trivia

  • Mumbai Indians have the least number of 50-plus scores this season - one, made by Rohit Sharma
  • Amit Mishra's economy-rate of 9.48 is the worst this season among specialist spinners who have played more than one match

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo