When Virat Kohli was asked on the YouTube series Breakfast With Champions if Rohit Sharma made it seem like he had an extra second to play shots compared to other batsmen, Kohli quickly corrected the interviewer. "One-and-a-half seconds."

Rohit's timing definitely makes it seem like that, but his timing and form this IPL season have been patchy. In 13 innings so far, Rohit has scored less than 300 runs and has won his team only one match on his own, when he scored 94 against Royal Challengers Bangalore more than a month ago. Take that innings out, and he's made only 179 runs this season at an average of 17.90 and a strike rate of 117.76.

Of course, Rohit cannot be blamed solely for Mumbai's travails this season - they lost five of their first six matches - but there is a clear correlation between his batting form and his team's performance.

In the six matches Mumbai have won so far, Rohit has scored 227 runs at an impressive average of 56.75 and a strike rate of 149.34. In Mumbai's seven losses, he has scored a mere 46 runs, at a horrific average of 6.57 and a strike rate of 88.46. Overall, too, 2018 has been Rohit's worst season in terms of time spent at the crease and runs scored, although he still has at least one match left to play.

He has faced 204 balls in this IPL, and will only go past his second-lowest tally (2017) if he faces at least 70 balls on Sunday night. His form last season was even worse than in this one so far - Mumbai also played two playoff matches and the final - but it didn't quite have the same impact on his team's fortunes, since they had a solidly performing middle order to rescue them if their openers Jos Buttler and Parthiv Patel failed.

This time, they settled on a new opening combination after two losses and even though Suryakumar Yadav and Evin Lewis have scored consistently, the middle order has bene inconsistent, with Kieron Pollard struggling until his last innings and the Pandya brothers taking time to get going. In such times, they needed a solid and calm hand to keep the runs flowing and instill confidence in the rest of the batting order.

Rohit fits the definition of calm and solid more than anyone else in his line-up, and is an inspiring leader too, but the runs have not come. He must be frustrated to know that he has made more ducks (three) in this season than in any other. If he looks around to see how other captains have done, he will see that Kane Williamson, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik and Virat Kohli have outscored him, as has Ajinkya Rahane, who scores at a much slower pace and isn't as much of a match-winner in T20s.

Added to this is Rohit's fluctuating spot in the batting order. There's no reason to break up the Suryakumar-Lewis pairing at the top at this stage, but there's no reason to believe Rohit would not have excelled there either had he continued to open after the first two matches.

It is well known that Rohit starts slow irrespective of his position and accelerates at an alarming rate once he has faced 30-odd balls. It would suit his style of play much more to open, or even bat at No. 3, and not at No. 4. He did bat at No. 3 recently but could not go beyond 31 deliveries against Kolkata Knight Riders and fell for a duck to Jofra Archer's short ball against Rajasthan Royals.

When he came out at No. 4 against Kings XI Punjab in Mumbai's next match, he only managed 6 off 10 balls. Even if one assumes Rohit will fall for another low score on Sunday, Mumbai would prefer a short and slow knock at the start of their innings rather than in the middle or end overs, where they have often lost wickets in clusters this season.

Overall, his run in the IPL has been an extension of his on-off form in other competitions. He started with low ODI scores in South Africa but ended with a century in Port Elizabeth. He fared poorly in the T20Is after that and didn't start well in the Nidahas Trophy either, but played a hand in India winning the tri-series with two straight half-centuries.

With a must-win match on Sunday night, the defending champions will desperately hope Rohit fires and ensure they don't bow out because of another substandard start to the season. If Rohit wants to use those extra one-and-a-half seconds Kohli talked about, it is now.

Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo