While they have had to make do with the absence of their match-winners Lendl Simmons and Lasith Malinga, they have had to contend with poor a batting show. To add to their woes, they have not been able to find a proper No. 3 batsman that they had to experiment with Hardik Pandya before settling down with Ambati Rayudu.
MI head coach Ricky Ponting said on the eve of his team’s fifth match against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday, “We haven’t played to the level the team would have liked to play to.
“We had very good win in Kolkata when we were chasing a big score but otherwise our batting hasn’t been good enough yet, and the guys have been aware of the way I want them to play and they know they haven’t played the way they can either,” Ponting said.
“At different times, we have been able to fight our way back in the games but we haven’t been able to dominate a game right from the outset. That is what we are hoping to do in our next game. If we can we do that against RCB, who are a very good side, then hopefully the boys can take a bit of confidence from that,” said Ponting, summing up the season so far.
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On the decision to try Pandya at No. 3 before dropping him down the order, Ponting said: “The problem we had with our line-up is we didn’t have a specialist No. 3 batsman. Our international batsmen Buttler and Pollard have not batted at No. 3. We wanted those guys in their more accustomed roles, what they play for their teams. Jos bats at No. 5 for England and Kieron has batted at No. 5 or 6 for MI all of his career, so we didn’t have a specialist No. 3.
“Rayudu has also excelled when he has batted down the list for MI, when he has been in that No. 6 role. He has been able to win games for us and forge a great partnership with Pollard and we didn’t want to break that up.
So, the only real option we had was to give Hardik Pandya a chance at No. 3. Obviously in domestic cricket, he bats up the order. He is a top order batsman but I guess it is fair to say the experiment for No. 3 didn’t work for us there. And we promoted Rayudu to No. 3 the other day when Rohit decided to bat at No. 4. It is probably likely now that Rayudu will stay at No. 3 for next few games.”
Such has been MI’s disappointing show with the bat that skipper Rohit Sharma had to drop himself to No. 4 after opening in the first three. Whether Sharma stays at No. 4, even Ponting did not have an answer.
“The beauty of Rohit is he is willing to do whatever he feels is right for the team. We decided on Sunday) to make the change in bringing in Martin Guptill and so Rohit slipped down the order. But he, as captain, also made it very clear at the start of the tournament that we will pick teams for certain conditions and for certain opposition. And, we pick teams and it is obviously for the captain to pick the batting order after that. Is he going to stay a No.
4, I don’t know. It might take another injury, if Guptill gets injured, then he has to probably find himself going back to the top of the order,” Ponting said.
Guptill got to make his IPL debut as Kieron Pollard was down with food poisoning and did not travel to Hyderabad. Whether Pollard comes in straightaway at Guptill’s expense is anybody’s guess. It will be unfair on the aggressive Kiwi to drop him after just one game.
Ponting faces the problem of whom to leave out and whom to fit in. And, he is still to find a place for Corey Anderson.
Asked how difficult it was to leave Anderson out, Ponting said: “Corey is a very good player. We can’t fit all those middle-order batsmen into one side. MI’s success over the years has been based around having two foreign fast bowlers in the side. So, if you play two foreign fast bowlers, you’ve got to make a call on who the two batsmen are going to be. We made the call that both Buttler and Pollard probably suited the roles more so than Corey. We know that if Buttler or Pollard happen to be not playing to their potential, then we have got a very good replacement in Corey, who can come in and dominate the IPL as he has shown in the past.”
But Buttler is likely to get a longer run despite three failures in four outings. Ponting defended the Englishman’s failures: “Buttler was out early in his first game, played a match-winning innings in his second game (41 in 22 balls) for us when we were chasing that total in Kolkata. In the last two games, he has been a little bit unlucky, stumped down the leg side against Gujarat Lions and was then caught down the leg side off a terrible delivery against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“Look, we will stick with him because we know he is a match-winning player and we have seen that right through the course of the World T20 and even in the innings he played in Kolkata. He is well suited to the conditions, he is a very good striker of the ball and it is great to have him in the team. We will definitely stick with him for a while.”
Asked if he has identified a replacement for the Sri Lankan Malinga, Ponting said: “We have not decided on the replacement for Malinga just yet. We are still thinking about what we might need as far as his replacement is concerned. Obviously, we have got McClenaghan, Southee in the team now. We have got Marchant de Lange waiting and he is bowling very well at the moment. If one of those bowlers goes down, we have got a replacement ready anyway in de Lange.”