In IPL 2020, Mumbai Indians were a force to reckon with on their way to grabbing their fifth IPL title in the UAE. A year later, Rohit Sharma and Co find themselves on a tricky pitch. Mumbai were fourth on the points table of IPL 2021 when the season was halted in May due to the second wave of COVID-19 breaching through bio-bubbles. Their return to the UAE, a place with happy memories, was expected to elevate them higher on the table.But six days into the tournament in the UAE, Mumbai have been far from convincing. They have slipped to losses in consecutive matches, first to Chennai Super Kings and then to Kolkata Knight Riders. The defeats mean that Mumbai are currently sitting at sixth place in the points table of IPL 2021 with just four wins out of nine matches.On Thursday against Kolkata, Mumbai's problems were exposed yet again. Their explosive middle-order, something which has played a big role in their success, has been off-colour. When Sunil Narine had captain Rohit Sharma caught out, Mumbai were 78/1 in 9.2 overs. From there, all went downhill for Mumbai.Suryakumar Yadav's struggles continued with him falling for 5. Quinton de Kock, who blazed through power-play, slowed down in middle-overs. Thanks to Kolkata spinners Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine combining to concede just 42 runs in eight overs, de Kock fell due to the pressure caused by lack of runs.
The rest of the order fell in quick succession to end at a below-par 155/6.Ishan Kishan, who was the highest run-scorer for Mumbai last year, has been enduring a lean run along with Krunal Pandya. With no Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard has been playing a lone decent hand in finishing duties.While Yadav has scored 3 and 5 in the IPL matches in UAE, Kishan has made 11 and 14. "In the last game we played, in the first six overs we put ourselves in a position to control the game. But that middle-order hasn't really kicked in and got going. We talk a lot about someone kicking through the backend of the innings so that the batting order can play around them. We just haven't been able to do that and so, once again, we found ourselves with a score that was sub-par," said bowling coach Shane Bond in the virtual press conference.Bond is hopeful of the middle-order coming back in form ahead of an important match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday. "The one thing we do know is that we have got a quality batting line-up. We have good surfaces out here throughout the tournament. So I am hoping the tide can turn. We need to because it has got to that stage where we need to start winning some games."With Bond's optimism, one can hope that Mumbai's middle order can get back to normal service and eventually get the team into winning mode in order to qualify for the play-offs.