Mumbai Indians: Strengthening its back-up options

Mumbai Indians has won two of its three titles in the last four seasons. Add to it the fact that in the other two seasons, 2016 and 2018, it has failed to make the cut to the playoffs. No wonder then Mumbai Indians has, in the recent past, emerged as a consistently inconsistent outfit in the Indian Premier League (IPL) circus.

By the middle of May, Rohit Sharma’s army will be keen to shed last year’s disappointment and present a fitting gift to the owner’s family, which has been busy in the last few months with two big fat weddings.

But the hitman and his hurricanes will realise that the revival to glorious past will not be easy. After all, with the uncertainty hovering over the availability of India’s World Cup-bound stars — MI boasting two other certainties in Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya besides the captain himself — the road to redemption will be challenging, to say the least, for MI.

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Mumbai Indians may have strengthened its back-up options by signing veterans Yuvraj Singh and Lasith Malinga in the auction. It would be interesting to see if either of them finds a place in the starting XI in MI’s season opener on March 24.

However, its big catch ahead of the season came during the trading window in South African Quinton de Kock, who — as long as he is available — is set to fill in the hole of a reliable wicketkeeper-opener, something that Mumbai Indians has struggled with in the recent seasons. Having tried out the likes of Jos Buttler, Parthiv Patel and rookie Ishan Kishan without consistent rewards, MI will pin its hopes on de Kock to come good.

The other major headache for MI will be Rohit Sharma’s batting position. Ever since he took over the captaincy midway through the 2013 season, despite leading MI to three titles, Rohit’s batting position has been an enigma at the start of every season. In fact, for a better part of the last five years, his batting position — which is anywhere in the top four — has remained an enigma right through a season.

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If MI can settle in on Rohit’s batting position early on in the season and the rest of the batting order revolves around him, it can overcome its tendency of getting off to a poor start in an IPL season. Coach Mahela Jayawardene will be hoping for his boys to get off the blocks quickly rather than finding themselves with too much catching up to do in the closing stages of the league.

In terms of balance, MI seems to have got the squad right. With six all-rounders, four specialist spinners — two of them wristies — and seven pacers, MI surely has the depth in the squad. With an uncertain season — from fixtures to venues to player availability — the depth will surely be tested in the next two months as MI shifts focus from weddings to the Wankhede Stadium.

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