Mumbai Indians have been playing far below their potential in this IPL season. Apply cricketing logic to it, and you will get reasons aplenty for their indifferent show. But the change they made just before the commencement of their IPL 5 campaign could have a lot to do with Mumbai's topsy-turvy ride.
Sachin Tendulkar handed over the Mumbai Indians captaincy to Harbhajan Singh before the tournament opener against Chennai Super Kings. And it won't be wrong to admit that after his successful Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) sojourn last season, the Turbantor - who has just one wicket in seven matches this season - has so far failed miserably as a player and been an average captain.
India's top spinner 12 months back has looked a spent force ever since India's debacle in England. And when the Ranji Trophy rigours failed to get the best out of him, he had everything to play for in the IPL. Considering that captaincy brought the best out of him in Mumbai's CLT20 triumph, Sachin's decision to step down must have been to give Harbhajan the best chance to make an India comeback.
Historically in the IPL, there have been instances where inspiring captaincy has taken the team forward. The best that comes to mind is former Deccan Chargers skipper Adam Gilchrist, who guided Deccan to the title in 2009 after they had finished last in the league's inaugural edition. And this year, it looks like the turn of Indian stalwarts Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, who are proving inspirational as the skippers of Pune Warriors India and Rajasthan Royals respectively.
One has to stop short of putting Harbhajan in that category despite a CLT20 trophy in his kitty, because where Ganguly, Gilchrist and Dravid have led from the front, Harbhajan's personal performance for Mumbai Indians has been up and down. Plus, Harbhajan's handling of the team is poles apart from how Tendulkar did the job in the previous four editions. His act of forcing the on-field umpire to ask for a review and inability to keep Munaf Patel's unnecessary aggression in check have shown Harbhajan in bad light as a captain.
At the same time, Harbhajan is a lucky captain as well, as he leads a team brimming with talent and players with the ability to win matches single-handedly. Tendulkar, Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Lasith Malinga are names that need to introduction. And even when Harbhajan has failed to deliver as the team's leading spin option, these names have stepped up to hide their captain's mediocre performance.
But there is still time left for the Mumbai skipper to get his train back on track. The league is just at its midway stage, and a back-in-form Harbhajan will not only strengthen the team but also give Mumbai a more confident skipper, who in turn will brighten his chances of a return to the Indian team.