Bond concerned as Mumbai Indians veer off bowling plans

IPL 2023

Bond concerned as Mumbai Indians veer off bowling plans

Aayush Puthran

Of all the styles Mohsin Khan could choose to explain his against-the-odd, successful last-over pressure contest, he chose ‘nonchalance’.

“If the opposing batter was confident (of chasing down the total), even I was confident (of defending it),” he shot bluntly, without a care for Tim David’s form, reputation and striking in the middle.

Mumbai Indians, and especially David, may have created a reputation of chasing down big totals but on Tuesday night, that prestige took a bit of beating. The left-arm pacer defended 11 runs in the final over against David and Cameron Green to power his team to the brink of playoffs qualification and left Mumbai Indians’ fate relying on the fortunes of the other sides.

“Obviously there is pressure to bowl the last over,” Mohsin admitted. “The ball was also reversing a bit… I spoke to the captain and all I had to do was execute what I was doing in practice. So I backed myself and didn’t bother to think how much I was defending. All I tried to do was bowl six good deliveries.”

That bit of confidence and discipline that Mohsin displayed in the high-pressure over is what is lacking in Mumbai Indians’ bowling attack, according to their bowling coach, Shane Bond. Yet again, he was witness to his bowlers refusing to stick to the pre-designed plans and allowing the contest to slip in the face of pressure.

Late in the 17th over, Akash Madhwal’s inswinging yorker had pinged Marcus Stoinis on his back leg. With the legstump visible at the point of contact, the Australian all-rounder began his march towards the dugout, giving up hope on the desperate review that he had taken to save him.

To everyone’s surprise, he survived. With no chewing gum for company, stone-faced he sauntered back to the crease. That proved to be an inflection point in the contest that was evenly balanced till then. With Krunal Pandya retiring out a few overs earlier and only 120 runs on the board, the strong base set by the fourth-wicket pair was threatening to lose its effectiveness on a pitch that needed batters to take time to settle to its pace.

Despite the odd failure of connecting bat to ball, Stoinis didn’t budge from his position at the crease. The backfoot remained steady just where it was earlier, but in turn, the bowlers started to err. They kept persisting with fuller lengths, going against the plan of action, much to the coach’s fury. Chris Jordan, who has never dismissed Stoinis and been taken apart at more than two-runs-a-ball, was at the receiving end of his stable base, straight loft-swings. In the 18th over, Stoinis smashed the pacer for two sixes and three boundaries. He followed that up by smacking Jason Behrendorff for two more sixes in the next over and ending the innings with a 15-run last over.

Scenes similar to these had played out in front of Bond’s eyes in the previous game as well. That Mumbai Indians beat Gujarat Titans comfortably was a solace but he had noticed his bowlers not executing the decided plans and wilting under pressure when Rashid Khan went on the offensive.

After the five-run loss against LSG, he didn’t hold back from criticising his bowling pack. “For me, the most frustrating thing is about not sticking to the plans that we talk about,” he confessed. “We were very clear with what we wanted to do on this wicket to players like Marcus (Stonis) and where we wanted to bowl, we didn’t bowl there consistently enough.

“When you’re looking at a team plan, you’ve got to get the batsmen to hit in areas where you want them to hit. Make it as hard as possible for them. You don’t them to hit you in areas that they want to hit. We saw that with Stoinis – a fine player. We knew he was trying to hit straight down the ground and we dished out balls for him to do it. In the end, his innings was the difference between the two teams.

In the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer, the mantle of leading the pace attack has fallen on the shoulders of Jason Behrendorff, whose role ideally wouldn’t have extended too far beyond the powerplay. Younger bowlers such as Akash Madhwal, Arshad Khan and Arjun Tendulkar have had to step in, but are far from being direct replacements for Bumrah. However, Bond doesn’t see that as an excuse.

“One of the things that we spoke about at the start of the tournament was that it is not an excuse. This is IPL, this is the toughest tournament in the world. And you’re expected to go out and deliver the plans irrespective whether it’s your first game or the 100th game. That’s the mentality we take.

“We’ve always prided ourselves in our preparation, the work that we do behind the scenes and how we review the game – the mistakes on which we want to improve. The frustrating thing is that we’re making the same mistake over and over again. From my point of view, it’s disappointing.

“We’ve got a combination of Jason and Tim. One is a senior bowler and the other fields at long off, working with the captain. We have systems in place to make sure messages are very clear on what we want to bowl, but we’re just not doing it. That’s the frustrating thing from my point of view and Mark’s point of view. For 15 overs, we were excellent, we delivered what we wanted to.

“One player put us under pressure. That’s what Rashid Khan did the other night and we made the same mistakes. What you want to do is make improvements, not make the same mistakes twice. It didn’t cost us in the last game, it definitely cost us tonight.”

Bond went to a more detailed explanation on what he expected out of his bowlers – fully aware that on most days they are bound to leak runs in the IPL.

“You can never stop good players from scoring runs. You’d rather have players scoring 89 from 47 be at 70 from 47. Those 17 to 20 runs can make a difference. We’ve talked about that at Wankhede over the course of the year. You are talking about a difference of 10-15 runs.

“You’ve seen the batting elevate to a different level this season. So you have to be brave, be able to read batsmen and perhaps be able to do things outside your comfort zone a little while longer. And we haven’t done that. Bowling attacks are getting pumped all over the field in this tournament – and some of them are more experienced than us. But that still doesn’t make it any better for us.

“At the end of day, those two points go away from us. Now we have to win and it’s (playoff qualification) still out of our control, which is disappointing

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