After two seasons at the bottom half, Mumbai Indians hit top with two excellent seasons but failed to close on the last steps each time. One final and one semi-final losses came after a great show in the League matches. The side’s resiliency came into fore when they won the Champions League last time with as many as 7 first choice players unavailable including the regular skipper. Their off season was busy with some fruitful transfers and smart purchases in the auction. Owned by the richest Indian, Mumbai Indians are not lacking in the riches of option.
They made two brilliant strategic transfers. Lack of a proper wicket keeper batsman had forced them to rely on keepers without much batting ability like Tare, Pinal Shah in the past or part time keepers like Rayadu. Even their keeper buy, Davy Jacobs was indisposed last time and failed in the few matches he played. They have made a smart buy in Dinesh Kaarthik. Kaarthik is one guy who can be all around. He is a decent keeper, and bats well. He can provide solidarity if early wickets fall and can add to the total with some lusty blows in the slog overs when needed. He will occupy a major spot in the middle order. Next addition was Pragyan Ojha. Ojha is IPL’s best spinner and will be spinning his web for Mumbai this time.
Their auction buys began with Gibbs. Despite being out of favour with national team, Gibbs had a good Big Bash and will be ideal foil to Tendulkar at the top. They solved the lack of Indian pacer with R.P.Singh. With him, Mumbai has all the three top wicket takers of IPL. Australian pacer Johnson will add their pace strength and they purchased the latest South African sensation Richard Levi. They made their day by buying talented Lankan Perara who is one more of dual players.
Mumbai will be led by Master Blaster. The man has just scored his hundredth hundred. He holds most of the batting records in both forms of cricket now and still he is as enthusiastic as ever. After a rather sedate year, IPL can refresh him mentally. His form has dictated Mumbai’s rise in the last two seasons and Ambanis will expect that to happen once again. However captaincy has not been his cup of tea and a tournament win can shut out few detractors regarding his captaincy. In case they need another one to lead the side, Harbhajan is ready made option with CL T20 win under the belt.
Batting is filled with best Indian youngsters. Sachin will walk at the top and his name says it all. To partner him, three South Africans can be tried. Gibbs has an experience as good as Tendulkar. Levi is in fine form right now. If Jacobs can fit into the role as he did in CL T20 2010, Mumbai will breathe ease. At one drop Rayadu comes in and he will hold a place of importance. He might have been an Indian player but for ICL stint. He is followed by Rohit Sharma. Technically the best batsman among youngsters, Rohit has always been a star in IPL. India will be benefitted if he can transpire it to the international cricket. At No 5, Kaarthik adds depth. All these three players can play a defensive game and can hit out. At No 6, the options are aplenty. In case Mumbai looks for an Indian, Surya Kumar Yadav can walk in and he is a potential star in making. If foreign player is the solace, Franklin or Perara can do the job really well. Both are known for their big hits. The backup includes the blitzkrieg Australian Blizzard known for his huge blows. Peterson can bat as well. Wankhade, Suman, Amitzoe all add depth. Lets us not forget Pollard, the T20 star in the side. If he finds form, God save the opposition. They bat deep with Harbhajan and even Malinga capable of winning matches with the bat.
Side is blessed with immense all rounders. Pollard gives everything on the field. He is a damn mad hitter, chips in with useful wickets and fielder of highest quality. Franklin played a big role in their fortunes in CL T20 and last IPL and Perara is a welcome addition. Peterson is an allrounder of high class and Surya Kumar Yadav will be keenly watched.
Spin has been a weak link and now with addition of Ojha, he forms a potent pair with Harbhajan. Bhajji will have a point to prove after being dumped from the national side. This is his best opportunity to show cause that he is not a spent force yet. Ojha will be keen to show that he can be useful not just in tests but in limited overs too. The two are likely to form a potent combination in the middle overs. Peterson can chip in useful overs. Chachal and Nayak offer promise. Rohit can bowl few overs and he has a hatrick to his name.
Their pace attack has the best limited overs bowler in Malinga. Lasith was the reason of their success in last two seasons and CL T20 title win. His Yorkers are legendary and opponents will be tested as usual. R.P.Singh will add to the options and he is among the Top 3 bowlers of IPL. Johnson will be on a mission to prove himself to the Aussie selectors and Munaf to Indian counterparts. Both bring immense experience. Abu Nechim backs up and he tends to be expensive. McKay is in great form now and Kulkarni is a work horse. Perara bowls well with new ball and Pollars has a key role in the middle overs. Thus their pace attack can be menacing with Malinga at the head.
The side is well endowed with T20 stars. They have the most experienced cricketer of all time to lead them and spin is led by a stalwart and a promise. Batting is blessed with best of Indian domestic players. Ground fielding is among the best in IPL easily. With as many as six out of seven Indians in the first choice XI being Team India stars, they probably have the strongest Indian contingent. All in all, this makes them a perfectly moulded T20 side. The biggest challenge will be the ability to win the knockouts. A place in Knockouts is not far and one need not be surprised in Tendulkar raises the Trophy at Chennai in May.
Best XI : Richard Levi – Sachin Tendulkar – Ambati Rayadu – Rohit Sharma – Dinesh Kaarthik – James Franklin – Kieron Pollard – Harbhajan Singh – Lasith Malinga – Rudra Pratap Singh – Pragyan Ojha.