IPL Team Previews: Mumbai Indians
The Mumbai Indians are looking up this year. Last year, one fumble meant the difference between a semi-final berth and fifth position. This year, I expect them to go further, and probably lift the title, in Mumbai on May 24.
Here is why I believe so. Last season, Sachin Tendulkar was out for a large part of the season, and the team, led by Shaun Pollock, in the absence of Harbhajan Singh being banned for the incident with Sreesanth, was noticeably unsure of themselves.
This year though, with Tendulkar fit for the entire season (unless NZ gets the better of him, hopefully not though, touchwood), and Harbhajan available too it looks like a much more formidable outfit.
The batting has been reinforced through some wise purchases by Ambani & Co. J.P Duminy is by far the most important purchase of the auction. He is classy, he is textbook and he is innovative.
He has every shot in the book, and can adapt equally well to one-day, test and Twenty20 cricket. He is the complete package and with his exceptional fielding ability, he gives the impetus that is required in the field for the Mumbai Indians.
Apart from Duminy, Kyle Mills is a fantastic buy. He provides the all-round option that is so essential in Twenty20. These days, every player has to contribute in batting, bowling and fielding, and Mills provides Mumbai with a solid option.
He is also a great replacement for Shaun Pollock, who will not be coming back as a player (but perhaps as a coach or advisor in some respect). His batting down the order is useful and his bowling is improving day by day.
Mohammad Ashraful boosts the batting in case of injuries or unavailability of players. The Bangladeshi captain has the aggressive instinct and the will to perform on the biggest stage (does everyone remember his 100 against Australia when Bangladesh upset them at Cardiff?).
Graham Napier, the Twenty20 specialist is an exciting prospect. He once scored 152* in a Twenty20 game for Essex, and his useful medium pace provides a good all-round option for the team.
Shikhar Dhawan was a very useful No. 3 for Delhi last season, as he continued the good work done by the best opening partnership in world cricket, Sehwag and Gambhir.
But perhaps the most important and crucial buy for Mumbai was Zaheer Khan. Zaheer, according to me, (along with Dale Steyn) is the best fast bowler in the world. He has everything, pace, seam movement, excellent skill in reverse swing and experience. He always had the ability, but the years 2007 and 2008 were his career-defining years.
He capped off a brilliant 2007, with 82 wickets and being named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2008. He is a local player, which means it frees up a spot for a foreign fast bowler on the squad, which means that the now-fit Lasith Malinga can finally bludgeon batsman with his yorkers.
Ryan Mclaren, the Kolpak player from South Africa who was recently asked for by South African coach Mickey Arthur, due to South Africa's problems in the one-day format, is another strong addition to the Mumbai team. He is another hard-hitting all-rounder who adds depth to the Mumbai side. I expect to see him feature in most starting line-ups.
With Sachin and Jayasuriya rivalling Delhi's opening batsmen, and Dwayne Bravo expected to be available for atleast the first half of the season, it looks like Mumbai is heading the right way for this season.
Ajinkya Rahane, one of the Ranji season's most prolific run-getters is getting his foothold in the team too, and with Dhaval Kulkarni, most recently picked as the fifth seamer on India's team to New Zealand also part of the Mumbai Squad, things are looking up for the most expensive and most supported team in the league.
Go the Mumbai Indians!
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