New Delhi, April 4 (IANS) Mumbai Indians (MI) put some distance between themselves and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as the most successful team in the Indian Premier League (IPL) by winning their fifth title last season. They are now looking to become the first team to win a hat-trick of IPL titles.
On paper, MI seem to have a squad capable of making a run to the trophy. They have retained their batting core comprising captain Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, and the Pandya brothers, Hardik and Krunal.
Kishan, de Kock and Yadav were especially destructive last season, scoring 516, 503 and 480 runs, respectively, while Hardik and Pollard consistently provided near-perfect finishes to the MI innings, making them one of the most complete batting units in the tournament.
Teams playing against MI last season were cautious to see off the new ball combination of Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah, who often ended up turning the tables in Mumbai’s favour in the powerplay itself. They also formed a formidable duo in the adeath’ overs as well.
Boult’s New Zealand teammates James Neesham and Adam Milne have been added into the team this season, bolstering their options in the bowling department. Neesham is also a valuable option as a lower order batsman.
It was only when bowling in the middle overs that Mumbai seemed to have a problem. While spinner Rahul Chahar was consistent last season, picking 15 wickets at an average of 28.86, he hardly had any help at the other end, with Krunal picking just six wickets at an average of 63.33. Jayant Yadav played two matches in which he managed to strike once.
MI seem to hope that this issue will be resolved with veteran Piyush Chawla, who was bought at the auction in February. Chawla picked six wickets in seven matches for a lacklustre CSK last season at an average of 31.83, but his overall economy of 9.09 was higher than Krunal’s 7.57.
A lack of clear-cut options in the attacking spinner’s department could prove costly for Mumbai as they will be playing on Indian pitches, as opposed to the UAE stadiums where Bumrah and Boult made merry last year.
However, such is the strength of the rest of the squad that MI might as well paper over that particular crack midway through the season, if not at the beginning itself. They are notorious slow starters, MI have not won any of their season opening matches since 2013. The trend set in the early part of the seasons has often turned out to be wrong in their case.
Zaheer Khan, Director of Cricket Operations, said that the team was picked based on the conditions that the team expected to find at the Wankhede Stadium, their traditional home ground, which means adapting will be key this season.
“Our team was picked based on playing at the Wankhede. But we will be playing a lot of games in Chennai, instead. This happened last year too when we played in foreign conditions, in the UAE. It is always about adapting to situations, so we do not have a problem playing at four different pitches. Even in the 2019 season we’ve had our away wins in Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, etc. Our boys have always done well in those kinds of challenges,” he said.
“We have some great spinners in our squad. Rahul Chahar is someone who has been very good as a ball and (is) growing. He is on the journey of understanding what works for him and what doesn’t. Along with the experience of Chawla and Jayant Yadav, Rahul will become a better bowler. So, we have a good bunch of spinners with us. Krunal is also very handy in picking wickets and I’m sure both will do a great job as a spinner.”
Squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Adam Milne, Aditya Tare, Anmolpreet Singh, Anukul Roy, Arjun Tendulkar, Chris Lynn, Dhawal Kulkarni, Hardik Pandya, Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper), James Neesham, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Marco Jansen, Mohsin Khan, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Piyush Chawla, Quinton De Kock (wicketkeeper), Rahul Chahar, Saurabh Tiwary, Suryakumar Yadav, Trent Boult, Yudhvir Singh
Support staff: Mahela Jayawardene (head coach), Shane Bone (bowling coach), Robin Singh (batting coach), James Pamment (fielding coach), Zaheer Khan (director of cricket operations), Paul Chapman (strength and conditioning coach), Kevin Sims (physiotherapist), CKM Dhananjai (data performance manager), Rahul Singhvi (team manager), Amit Shah (sports massage therapist), L Varun (video analyst), Sizwe Hadebe (assistant physiotherapist), Ashutosh Nimse (assistant physiotherapist), Pratik Kadam (assistant strength and conditioning coach), Nagendra Prasad (assistant strength and conditioning coach), Vijaya Khushwa (assistant sports massage therapist), Mayur Satpute (assistant sports massage therapist), Kinita Patel (nutritionist)