IPL 2023: Mumbai Indians talent scouts hit the mark again with Akash Madhwal

Fast bowler picked up 5-5 against Lucknow to keep Mumbai on track for the final

Mumbai Indians' Akash Madhwal celebrates the wicket of Lucknow Super Giants' Krishnappa Gowtham during their IPL 2023 eliminator in Chennai. AP
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Mumbai Indians are one step away from making it to the final of the Indian Premier League, and that is nothing short of a miracle after how their season started.

Rohit Sharma's team began the tournament without pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, who is struggling with a career-threatening back injury, and lost fellow quick Jofra Archer during the season to more fitness issues.

So thin were Mumbai's resources that veteran leg-spinner Piyush Chawla became their go-to bowler. It was in stark contrast to their much stronger batting line-up.

As the season wore on, a number of bowling options were tried, including Arjun Tendulkar, Riley Meredith and Arshad Khan. They didn't quite work, until Mumbai gave Akash Madhwal a go.

The right-arm seamer took to the IPL like duck to water, immediately impressing with his pace, accuracy and, most importantly, his death bowling.

In seven games so far, Madhwal has picked up 13 wickets at an economy of less than eight an over. Nine of those wickets came in the last two games.

In the last league phase game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Madhwal picked up 4-37 in a game where both sides scored 200 to help set up victory and, ultimately, qualification for the play-offs as the fourth-best side.

Then in the eliminator against Lucknow Super Giants on Wednesday, the 29-year-old took the tournament by storm with stunning figures of 5-5 to take Mumbai one step closer to the final.

For someone who worked as an engineer and played tennis-ball cricket just a few years ago, it has been quite a turnaround.

Madhwal joined Mumbai last year as an injury replacement, having been a net bowler at Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2019. He was confined to playing practice matches, before captain Sharma introduced him to the big stage this season.

"The team has given me the responsibility so I am trying to do it," Madhwal said after his man-of-the-match performance.

"It's not that I can take his (Bumrah's) place, but whatever I can do in my capacity, I am doing."

It has turned out to be yet another success story for Mumbai Indians talent scouts, who have gained a reputation for picking the right local talent. Fast bowler Bumrah and all-rounders Hardik and Krunal Pandya - who are now captains at Gujarat Titans and Lucknow - were picked early by the franchise. Last year, young batsman Tilak Varma and this season, fellow southpaw Nehal Wadhera too have turned out be excellent selections.

If Madhwal puts in another match-winning effort when Mumbai face Gujarat on Friday for a place in Sunday's final against Chennai Super Kings, it would be crowing achievement for the franchise that has become a nursery for future stars.

Updated: May 25, 2023, 12:16 PM