With two wins in five games, the defending champions are placed fourth and have clearly been a few levels below the Chennai Super Kings, the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Punjab Kings. IPL 2021 has already indicated that it's going to be a tightly contested tournament, and MI need to gather some winning momentum as we approach the midpoint of the league phase.
Here are 3 areas of concern MI have to address ahead of their April 29 encounter against the Rajasthan Royals (RR).
#3 Where have MI's famed all-rounders gone?
MI's success in the IPL over the last few years has primarily been because of the quality all-rounders at their disposal.
While Kieron Pollard is one of the greatest IPL and T20 all-rounders of all time, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya have contributed regularly in both departments for the side. Last year, Nathan Coulter-Nile offered great depth while batting at No. 8.
But in IPL 2021, MI seem to be without any top-class all-rounders. Pollard's output as a bowler has diminished rapidly, while Krunal has been found wanting even on pitches that offer grip and turn. Hardik hasn't bowled in this tournament so far for reasons known only to the MI management.
Adam Milne, Marco Jansen and Jayant Yadav have played for MI in IPL 2021 as the fourth bowling option, but none of them have nailed down a spot in the side. Rohit Sharma might be forced to bring back either Coulter-Nile or Jansen, and could even opt to play hard-hitting Kiwi all-rounder Jimmy Neesham.
#2 MI's new-ball bowlers have failed to deliver in the powerplay
In IPL 2020, Rohit Sharma didn't even have to use his biggest strike bowler - Jasprit Bumrah - in the powerplay. Bumrah was often brought on for a couple of one-over spells after the end of the field restrictions, before delivering the rest of his quota at the death.
This was possible because Trent Boult and James Pattinson provided regular breakthroughs in the powerplay while bowling with the new ball. But this year, in five games, MI have taken only three wickets in the powerplay. Boult has been impressive at the death, but the usual skill we see from him with the new ball has been missing.
MI need to find a way around this problem, as their spinners Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya aren't reliable new-ball options either. We might see Bumrah being given a couple of overs up front to rattle the opposition openers.
#1 MI's middle order has been woeful
Ishan Kishan - 73 runs at a strike rate of 82.95. Hardik Pandya - 36 runs at a strike rate of 97.29. Kieron Pollard - 65 runs at a strike rate of 116.07. Krunal Pandya - 29 runs at a strike rate of 107.4.
The above stats paint a nightmarish picture for MI, whose middle order has been next to non-existent in IPL 2021. Suryakumar Yadav has been the only batsman to show touch and promise in the middle, but he too has thrown his wicket away after getting starts on a number of occasions.
With Quinton de Kock going through a rough patch at the top, Rohit and Suryakumar have single-handedly carried the MI batting lineup so far. And this can't continue to happen, especially against a quality opposition.
RR have had MI's number in the IPL over the years. If the 5-time champions are to take a step towards setting the record straight against their bogey team, the middle order will need to put in a significantly improved showing.