Q: Can Mumbai Indians defend the title this year?
A: They surely can, unless their spinners are sapped by the end of the tournament
What can work for them?
Most teams would be hamstrung if they lose as explosive a bowler as Lasith Malinga. But not Mumbai Indians, whose fast-bowling ammo is unmatched in the league. Helmed by Jasprit Bumrah, fresh and bounding after a timely break, their bowling conglomerate exudes experience, depth, menace and variety, an eclectic bunch capable of transcending the nature of surfaces. So much so that Rohit Sharma is pampered for choice.
💥 Bumrah and Mitch 🕶️ together for #MI:
— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) September 18, 2020
Put yourself in his shoes and try to decide which of the two pacers from Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan, James Pattinson, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Dhawal Kulkarni would you pick to partner Jasprit Bumrah. They have an equally destructive line-up order, made more destructive by the addition of Chris Lynn.
Where can they falter?
As thick as their pace stock is, their spin bench is thin. Young leg-spinner Rahul Chahar enjoyed a coming-of-age campaign last season, has deception and tricks, but he’s still not adequately experienced to be anointed the lead-spinner. Neither is left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya, who though would find the hot and dry conditions ideal to practice his craft. But under pressure, in big games against world-class batsmen, could they churn in match-winning performances? What if one of the two gets injured?
They might need off-spinner Jayant Yadav to recreate his domestic T20 thriftiness (6.20) into the IPL stage. Or left-arm spinner Anukul Roy to enjoy Chahar-like break-through edition. Mumbai Indians are reputed to paper their cracks enviably well, but their spin department has more question marks than ever before.
Will they think of…
Sending Rohit Sharma at No 3 to accommodate Quinton de Kock and Chris Lynn at the top of the order would be on the cards. Or will they swap Krunal Pandya with Jayant Yadav? The former played all 16 games last season, and bowled fairly economically (7.28 is quite impressive in this version) but he is not as reliable or steady as this level of cricket demands from a spinner. He is prone to waywardness—there will be days when his flatter trajectory turns out to be incredibly difficult to fetch boundaries, but there would be days when he can be utterly bland. Yadav offers a steadier alternative, besides carrying more wicket-taking threat.
Say hello to…
Nathan Coulter-Nile. The Western Australian all-rounder is a short-form beast. He has rediscovered his batting mojo, polished his bowling and most importantly, unearthed the formula of staying injury-free, the biggest hurdle to his career touching dizzy heights. He could be the all-round impact-player in the peak-day Kieron Pollard mould.
If his batting is all muscle and bottom hand—remember how he blew West Indies away with a match-winning 92 off 60 at Trent Bridge, the highest score by a No 8 in World Cup—his bowling is muscle plus brain. Between his frequent injury-enforced layoffs, he has meticulously worked on his variations and sharpened the already existing ones. Always a fine short-ball purveyor, he can slip in a toe-crusher or a slower-ball yorker with discernible change in action. Add the cutters and he becomes a devastating proposition, and in a Malinga-less season, they would require him to be at his smartest.
Remember the name…
Sherfane Rutherford barely got a consistent run last year with Delhi Capitals. But in the few games he played, he did furnish ample evidence of his penchant for the big strikes. He managed just 73 runs in seven games, batting way down the order, but 42 off those runs came via sixes. Though he has not captured the imagination of world cricket—under-utilised as he had been—this could be his season.
What’s their Quarantine Quotient?
Staying indoors for 80 days will test all teams, but the Mumbai Indians squad has the composure to stay unflustered and sustain their focus.
Average age: 26
Total Experience: 2894 T20 games
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