Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene says his fast bowlers still have a "bigger role" to play in the IPL even if some pitches have showed signs of slowing down in the UAE. Mumbai will think about changing their bowling attack to bring in a spinner for one of their quicker bowlers only when the conditions will require them to, Jayawardene said.
With fast bowlers from others teams too - as was shown by Jofra Archer, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Norte on Wednesday night - picking wickets and troubling batsmen consistently, and Mumbai's own trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and James Pattinson excelling with their combined wickets tally of 31, Jayawardene says he is "happy" with their current combination.
"We need to see how it (the conditions) will evolve," Jayawardene said a day before their clash against the Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday. "Last year as well we made that adjustment at the back-end of the tournament when we played in certain pitches (in Delhi and Chennai) that were suited for spinners. I cannot say that right now because still the fast bowlers have a bigger role to play in this competition, whether it's in the powerplay, middle overs or back-end.
"As long as they (fast bowlers) are making contributions, they are penetrating the oppositions' batting line-up, it doesn't matter what kind of surfaces we play on because the quality of the fast bowling that we have is always going to create opportunities. If the conditions suits, then yes, we will look into that but right now we're happy with the combination that we have."
Mumbai were second on the points table before Thursday's game with five wins out of seven games, and their performances so far have come down to almost all of their batsmen firing, and their fast bowlers' ability to adapt quickly to conditions that aren't tailor-made for them. Jayawardene said they were a "little wobbly" in the first few games but he is pleased with their consistency since the Super Over finish against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, to win four games in a row.
One of the surprise packages for Mumbai has been Pattinson, who is playing his maiden IPL and has picked nine wickets from seven games with an economy rate of 8.25. While the pace attack is led by the more experienced campaigners Bumrah and Boult, Mumbai were forced to fill the big void of Lasith Malinga, who opted out of the IPL for personal reasons. Jayawardene revealed it was captain Rohit Sharma's idea to bring in Pattinson as the replacement, who could create wicket-taking opportunities for them in the opening and middle overs.
"I have to be honest, there were quite a few names that we discussed [to replace Malinga] but Rohit was the one who put his hand up and said Patto will be someone who will definitely add value to the attack," Jayawardene said. "What he brings is pace, accuracy, bowls the hard ball and has that wicket-taking ability which we always look at. I know he was replacing Mali who is a death overs specialist but the requirement for us was always going to be tough to replace a like-to-like match for Lasith.
"How to compensate that is by try and get someone who is going to create opportunities up front and in the middle by picking up wickets. So that's where Jimmy's name came up. So that was the path we took and he hasn't let us down from the day he arrived - the way he trained, the way he understood the role we wanted him to do in the team and he adapted really, really well. He has formed a very good partnership with Boulty and Boom, and these few guys have been really, really good. So far it's been brilliant.
As a result, Mumbai are the only team so far to have used only 12 players from their squad, bringing in Ishan Kishan at No. 4 for Saurabh Tiwary, who picked a niggle after their first two games. With "very good" players like Chris Lynn, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell McClenaghan still on the bench, Jayawardene said it not only created a healthy rivalry in the dressing room but also gave them the option to pick players for very specific conditions and oppositions, apart from bringing in changes to manage players' workload.
"It makes a healthy rivalry within the group, we monitor everyone's attitude and focus, whether they're actually prepared for each and every game," Jayawardene explained. "Depending on that we might make certain changes, if we feel they're not physically capable or whether they are mentally fresh, then we make those rotations and make sure we manage the workloads. So that's the reason we've got a lot of good players on the bench ready to go at any given time."
For now, the coach is satisfied with their 12 points that have given them an early advantage in the playoffs race as "the tournament will always get tougher and tougher at the back-end."