New Delhi: Defending Champions Mumbai Indians will once again start the tournament as one of the favourites to lift the crown in the forthcoming edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Possessing one of the most balanced squads in the league, Mumbai will certainly feel confident despite few of their star players getting bought by other teams in the auction, that took place in January. Cricketnext takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the MI team and also predict where they would finish in this year’s IPL.
The reason why Mumbai have been the most successful team in the past is because they have somehow managed to keep their core intact year after year and the strategy has yielded three titles in ten seasons. This time as well, Mumbai played their cards well and the likes of Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Pandya brothers, Keiron Pollard and Saurabh Tiwary are there in the squad, and they can hit the ground running as familiarising with each other won't be an issue.
Mumbai Indians' batting prowess is sure to send chills down the spine of bowlers across the teams in the competition. The defending champions have power-hitters like Evin Lewis, Rohit Sharma, Saurabh Tiwary, JP Duminy, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya and Kieron Pollard. Any of these big names can take the game away from the opposition in a blink of an eye, as they have shown time and time again in the past.
With so many top-class pace bowlers to choose from, Mumbai will have an happy headache as to who all will make it into the playing XI. Jasprit Bumrah is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, bowler in the shortest format of the game, while all-rounder Hardik Pandya is a as reliable with the ball as with a blade in hand. Pat Cummins has become Australia's pace spearhead in the last one year or so while Mustafizur Rahman has shown is bowling credentials in the IPL during his time with Sunrisers Hyderabad. Not to forget the likes of Mitchell McClenaghan and Pradeep Sangwan who are proven IPL campaigners as well.
While they have a lot of high profile pacers in the line-up, Mumbai lack serious firepower when it comes to the spin department. The likes of Anukul Roy, Akila Dananjaya and Mayank Markande are untested quantities in the league, while Rahul Chahar has some experience of playing in IPL but he too lacks in multiple departments. One won't be surprised if Rohit Sharma has turn to Krunal Pandya for some quality left-arm spin bowling in place of the aforementioned four.
Another department where Mumbai could be found wanting is not having a quality wicket-keeper batsman in their squad. While they have Ishan Kishan and Aditya Tare in their ranks, the duo have a combined experience of just 51 IPL matches between them. Moreover, the duo haven't really set the league alight in previous seasons with the bat either as Tare has scored just 339 runs in 35 matches spread across six seasons, while on the other hand, Ishan has scored 319 in 16 matches that he managed to play in two seasons.
With so many game-changers in their line-up, it is hard to pick just one X-factor player of Mumbai Indians but Hardik Pandya just shades Jasprit Bumrah just because of his all-round abilities. The reason why his national skipper Virat Kohli is a fan because Hardik balances out a playing XI perfectly. A captain has to chop and change his team according to the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and having a player like Hardik really helps in doing that as one can play an extra batsman or a bowler as Hardik is equally good in both departments. Last edition of the league was Hardik's breakout season as he featured in all of Mumbai matches and scored 250 runs and also scalped 10 wickets to help his team clinch their third title. And now that he is a proven customer on both domestic and international arena, expect more of the same from the younger Pandya brother.
At this point in time, it is hard to argue that Mumbai Indians won't be featuring in the blockbuster finale that is scheduled to be played on May 27. Mumbai seem to be one of the most balanced sides in the league on paper and having a leader in Rohit Sharma — who has a win rate of 60% as captain of Mumbai Indians — seriously enhances the prospects of the team going past the finishing line come the D-day. However, the onus will be on the blue brigade to match history as previously, only Chennai Super Kings have won back to back titles and Mumbai are standing on the brink of a similar achievement.
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