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Talking Points - Hardik Pandya drags Mumbai out of a hole, again

Hardik Pandya lifted Mumbai Indians to a big total BCCI

Hardik Pandya has delivered with the bat more often than not in IPL 2019. And when he has, they've been match-turning innings. His four major innings in the competition have been:

32 not out in 14 balls (2x4, 3x6) against Royal Challengers Bangalore 31 in 19 balls (3x4, 1x6) against Kings XI Punjab 25 not out in 8 balls (1x4, 3x6) against Chennai Super Kings 28 not out in 11 balls (1x4, 3x6) against Rajasthan Royals

And yet the earliest he has walked out to bat has been with 5.2 overs left, with the team needing a lift to be competitive. Why not send him in earlier? What a difference he - and Kieron Pollard - might make with, say, 30 balls to face? Something for Rohit Sharma and the Mumbai Indians to think about.

Mumbai must be more flexible with their batting order

To stretch the point a little more …

When Rohit became the first to fall on Saturday, Mumbai had made 96 runs in 10.5 overs. In the dugout were Pollard and Hardik, and out walked Suryakumar Yadav, who has batted at No. 3 all along for Mumbai this season, and while he has scored useful runs, hasn't always managed to up the ante.

Against Royals, Mumbai had 92 at the halfway mark. Three-fourths of the way home, after 15 overs, all they had was 126 - that's 34 in five overs, a slowdown if ever there was one.

Remember what Pollard did in Mumbai's last game, when he was given - he gave himself, actually - time to take charge of the script? Of course, he faltered today at No. 4, but Mumbai might give themselves a better chance of scoring bigger if their two best hitters - Hardik and Pollard - get more time in the middle.

How about Hardik at No. 3 and Pollard down at the end, or the other way around? Maybe then Mumbai will start breaching 200 more often.

The Royals' unorthodox plan to Pollard

Pollard came into the match on the back of one of the most remarkable innings in the tournament, 83 in 31 balls to help Mumbai beat Kings XI Punjab. He was the man in form, the one Royals had to keep quiet. So they chose to put a fielder almost dead straight - as much as possible within legal limits.

It has been tried by MS Dhoni and M Vijay in the past to try and block off Pollard's favourite scoring area. This time, with Shreyas Gopal bowling and the fielder almost directly in his line of vision behind the bowler, Pollard played out a sequence of four dot balls in the 15th over of the innings before falling for a 12-ball 6.

Rahane plays it right, for a change

Ajinkya Rahane maintains that a T20 innings still needs an anchor at the top of the order, and experts feel Royals can't carry two of those in the XI in him and Steven Smith. Throughout last season, Rahane batted like someone looking to bat through the innings does, but after getting off to a quickish start, he usually slowed down in the middle overs, and more often than not, left his side with too much to do at the death.

His top two scores in IPL 2018 resulted in losses for Royals, and he finished among the slowest-scoring openers in the tournament. ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats suggested Royals would have made 51 more runs in the 2018 edition if he hadn't batted at all.

On Sunday, he raced off the blocks, cracking shot after eye-catching shot in the Powerplay, playing aggressor despite Jos Buttler's presence at the other end. At 37 off 20, he fell going for one big shot too many, getting caught trying to clear deep midwicket.

If he carries on like this - not that he tried to get out - it's an approach that will do his side a world of good, and turn him from a traditional anchor to a batsman who provides the impetus at the top and not bogging the team down later on.

With inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman and Shamya Dasgupta