Late bloomers Mumbai Indians well placed for another title run
Gokul Gopal • Last updated on Fri, 31 Mar, 2017, 09:28 PM
Mumbai Indians’ success post 2010 has been built around a strong core group of players. © BCCI
One of only three teams to clinch the Indian Premier League title more than once, Mumbai Indians have been a force to reckon with over the years, making it to the knockout stage six out of seven times since 2010, including three final appearances. Despite being slow starters, especially in the last three years, Mumbai have managed to turn things around in dramatic fashion. Their experience in recovering from the initial stumbles holds them in good stead and they will go into the 10th edition as one of the favourites regardless of the fact that they exited early last year.
In the last three years, there has been a common theme when it comes to how Mumbai start their campaign. They suffered five losses in a row at the start of the 2014 season, lost five out of their first six matches in 2015 and then slipped to four defeats in their first six matches in 2016. On the back of brilliant performances close to the business end of the tournament, Mumbai found the get-out-of-jail cards in both 2014 and 2015, going on to clinch a second IPL title in 2015. Rather than hitting the high notes early in the tournament, Mumbai’s symphony has always joined the cause when the rendition is nearing completion. While this saved them twice, the ensemble didn’t quite find the tune last year, which meant that Mumbai were condemned to an early exit for the first time in seven years.
The combination conundrum, injuries to key players and the indifferent form of the batsmen, barring Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu, chiefly contributed to Mumbai’s below-par showing in 2016.
Rohit and Rayudu accounted 823 runs at a combined average of 37.40, with seven half-centuries between them. But only four more fifties were scored by the rest of the batsmen, with the overseas names like Kieron Pollard, Jos Buttler and Martin Guptill being the major let-downs, along with Parthiv Patel and Hardik Pandya. The bowling, on the other hand, was on the mark as Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee did a good job, as did the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Harbhajan Singh and Krunal Pandya, with the only exception being the out-of-form Hardik. Heading into IPL 2017, the former champions will be keen to iron out the issues that left them in a quandary in the earlier edition, both injury and form wise.
Like most IPL teams, Mumbai’s success formula has revolved around a core group of players, that , along with solid support from the rest of the line-up, has helped the team progress from strength to strength. Overseas names, seasoned India internationals, x-factor players or uncapped talents, Mumbai have it all.
If the previous three seasons of IPL are anything to go by, Mumbai Indians, despite possessing a star-studded line-up, have not got the kind of starts they would have hoped for. The late blooming may not always work, as they found out last season, and they would be aware of the importance of a good start and sustaining the momentum.
In the absence of Lasith Malinga, Tim Southee, bowling in partnership with McClenaghan, proved to be a vital cog last season and Mumbai might prefer him over the slingy Sri Lankan pacer, who is prone to injuries. Mumbai have also stocked up their options by bringing in Mitchell Johnson, who had played a key role in their path to the title in 2013, along with value additions like K Gowtham, who had a superb domestic season, and Saurabh Tiwary.
The major concern for Mumbai will be the fitness of their skipper Rohit, who has had a fair share of injury problems of late. Having recovered from a thigh injury, which had led to a lengthy lay-off, Rohit featured in two games in the Vijay Hazare Trophy before backing out of the subsequent Deodhar Trophy due to a troublesome knee. While he is expected to be fit in time for the IPL, Mumbai will be hoping that he lasts the distance as his absence at a crucial juncture could prove to be a body blow.
What the schedule holds
A look at Mumbai’s IPL 2017 schedule reveals an even spread of home and away games over the duration of the season. Also, the longest breaks in between games for Mumbai are two four-day offs barring which they do not have too many breaks, depriving them of sufficient recovery time.
Ever since the inception of the T20 league, MumbaiIndians have opted for the star attractions – be it picking the players or the support staff, the Mukesh Ambani-owned franchise hasn’t spared any expense. However, they have been smart with their buys in the last few years, concentrating on value for money. Their latest acquisitions include the likes of Nicholas Pooran and Asela Gunaratne, who offer solid backup in the overseas department, while local signings such as Siddhesh Lad, Deepak Puniya, Karn Sharma and Kulwant Khejroliya beef up the bench strength and make for quality replacement options. With all bases covered, Mumbai will be eager to become the dominant force they were two seasons ago.
Ideal starting eleven: Rohit Sharma (c), Parthiv Patel (wk), Lendl Simmons/Jos Buttler, Ambati Rayudu, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan, Tim Southee/Lasith Malinga