India vs England: The Rising ‘Mumbai Factor’ in Team India
The legacy and contribution of Mumbai to Indian cricket is well-documented. Some of the greatest batsmen and finest captains of the world have come from here. No one has made it to the Ranji trophy final more than Mumbai or has won it more times. However, with the emergence of the T20 format, Mumbai’s dominance in Indian cricket isn’t the same anymore. The players from the smaller towns have been proving that match-winners can come from any part of the country.
However, the impact and influence of Mumbai in shortest format hasn’t diminished at all. Of course, Mumbai Indians in IPL is a private franchise but there is little doubt that it has emerged as the finishing school for talented cricketers from across the country. The infrastructure and vision of MI has not only helped the local talents, but also players from other states.
Rohit Sharma is arguably one of the finest openers in white-ball cricket and perhaps the best captain in T20 format. A true Mumbaikar, Rohit is also the face of Mumbai Indians. Like Indian vice-captain, Suryakumar Yadav is another player who not only represents Mumbai in domestic cricket but also an established match-winner for Mumbai Indians. Shreyas Iyer who impressed everyone with his captaincy in the last couple of seasons for Delhi in IPL is a product of the Mumbai School. And so is the late bloomer Shardul Thakur whose evolution as a cool death over specialist is one of the subtle yet pleasant stories of Indian cricket.
Jasprit Bumrah is not only India’s best white-ball bowler but one of the finest across formats in world cricket. Time and again, the Gujarat bowler has also emphasized that with the mentoring of Mumbai Indians, he wouldn’t have reached the same height. And, this is equally true in the case of young wicketkeeper batsman Ishan Kishan. Just ahead of the T20 squad selection a fortnight back, the 22-year-old Kishan’s blistering knock of 173 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy proved to be a catalyst since his exploits for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2020 was noticed by all.
Like Bumrah and Kishan, success of Hardik Pandya also underlines the fact that even if you don’t have the upbringing of Mumbai cricket, you can still benefit from the city’s connection which has an unparallel cricketing culture. The Baroda all-rounder wasn’t even seen as the successor of Irfan Pathan from the same city until he became part of the Mumbai Indians’ family. In the shortest format of the game, Pandya can hold his own purely as a batsman or a bowler.
No one has a better strike rate than Hardik Pandya (143.24) in the current Indian team and yet he hasn’t got an opportunity to bat in nearly 35 % of the matches (31 out of 46) he has played since his debut in 2016. And, if you consider a total of 35 balls faced in 11(out of 31 he’s batted) matches, you get an idea how this resource is being hugely under-utilized.
This is where Virat Kohli can take a leaf out of Mumbai Indians’ camp that has used Pandya better as a middle-order batsman in the IPL. While Pandya on an average gets to face just 6 balls (304 in 47 matches) per match for India, he faces more than 10 (so far 847 in 80 matches). And, this also gives him a better strike rate (nearly 160) and average (nearly 30) than his India numbers (SR143 and avg. around 18).
Of course, the obvious reason behind holding Pandya late in the batting order is simply because there is no better striker than him who is supremely lethal in the final overs with his staggering ability to hit sixes at will. When Pandya was adjudged Man of the Series against Australia in the T20 series last year, he had consistently exhibited a brilliant display of caution mixed with aggression. If Indian team can back Pandya to bat higher up in the batting order, who knows this may make Indian batting as formidable as Mumbai Indians?