'We lost the game in the first six overs'
Mumbai Indians' skipper Harbhajan Singh expressed displeasure at the team's batting display against Delhi on Monday and rued the absence of injured Sachin Tendulkar from the squad.
He has quit captaining Mumbai Indians ahead of the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), but Sachin Tendulkar's influence on the side remains unmatched.
In the tournament opener against holders Chennai Super Kings, the Master Blaster was hit by a Doug Bollinger delivery and hasn't been able to play in any of his team's four subsequent matches.
In his absence, Mumbai Indians have been erratic, to say the least; most importantly, losing two of their three matches at home.
While a couple of weeks back they failed to chase a modest target set by Pune Warriors India, on Monday they were dismissed for a paltry 92 by Delhi Daredevils, the lowest (and only sub-100) total of this edition thus far.
"We lost the game in the first six overs, after losing those two or three early wickets. On a wicket like this, it is important to get runs from the top order and that it is something that didn't happen today," explained Harbhajan Singh.
"After that it was difficult for us to score and we continued losing wickets at regular intervals as well," he added.
Image: Mumbai Indians' Ambati Rayudu
'It will be nice to have Sachin back on the field'
Having said that, Mumbai Indians' captain couldn't refrain from ruing the absence of the team's biggest motivating factor in the last few matches.
Tendulkar was declared fit to play against Delhi, but the decision to be reverted after observing him practice during the nets session on the eve of the match.
"Of course, it will be nice to have Sachin back on the field," admitted Harbhajan, adding, "I am sure he will be back by the next game -- against Kings XI Punjab on Sunday, if nothing goes wrong in the nets."
He proceeded to elaborate an important role the Master Blaster plays when he is in the team.
"When he is batting with any of the foreign players it just makes it a little easier for them to score. Sachin can take a lot of pressure off them," explained Harbhajan, indicating the case of Richard Levi.
The South African made a promising start to his IPL career, scoring 50 (on debut) against Chennai in a match that featured Tendulkar. The 24-year-old has struggled since, falling prey to left-arm spinners on three occasions (including Shahbaz Nadeem on Monday), thereby validating the point made by his captain.
Image: Harbhajan Singh with Sachin Tendulkar
Underperforming Levi worries Harbhajan
Harbhajan was categorical in admitting that they might drop Levi for the next match.
"Of course, Levi is having a hard time with the left-arm spinners.
"We need to reconsider what other options we have and we will play the best possible eleven in the next game," he added.
While the paltry total gave Mumbai Indians' bowlers no chance whatsoever, they did miss the presence of Lasith Malinga, especially the early breakthroughs that the Sri Lankan quick regularly ensures for his team.
Asked Malinga was rested for the match, Harbhajan sounded pragmatic.
"Malinga's back is a problem. So we wanted to give him a break for this game," he said.
"It is a long tournament and we didn't want him to get hurt by playing all these games. There's no need to rush, and, hopefully, he will be fine for the next game," he concluded.
Image: Richard Levi
Photographs: Getty Images