The Mumbai Indians are next on the list. This was one of the most puzzling teams from last year. They lost the first four games they played, then won six in a row, lost the next three, won their last game and missed the semifinals by one point.
They have been the most active in the swap market, trading Robin Uthappa for Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra for Shikhar Dhawan of Delhi Daredevils.
Last year result: 5th Place (7-7-0)
The squad (internationals starred):
· JP Duminy*
· Mohammed Ashraful*
· Sachin Tendulkar
· Shikar Dhawan
· Ajinkya Rahane
· Jaydev Shah
· Sanath Jayasuria*
· Ryan McLaren*
· Dwayne Bravo*
· Graham Napier *
· Kyle Mills*
· Abhishek Nayar
· Jude Singh
· Pinal Shah
· Yogesh Takawale
· Lasith Malinga*
· Dilhara Fernando*
· Harbajan Singh
· Zaheer Khan
· Dhawal Kulkarni
· Rohan Raje
· Chetanya Nanda
· Rahil Sheikh
Coaches: Shaun Pollock/Jonty Rhodes/Pravin Amre
Some scheduling issues to be aware of when choosing the playing XI. The IPL starts April 18th and ends May 24th. The Australian- Pakistan series ends on May 7th. The English and the West Indies will play starting May 6th and won’t be back. Luckily for Indians the only player they would lose would be Dwayne Bravo.
In the playing XI the seven Indian players should be Sachin Tendulkar, Shikar Dhawan, Abhishek Nayar, Harbajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Dhwal Kulkarni and one of these two Pinal Shah Yogesh Takawale.
Sachin, Bhajji, and Zaheer are in the Indian XI and obvious choices. Abhishek Nayer played amazingly last year and Shikar Dhawan was brilliant for Delhi last year.
Kulkarni is rough around the edges and expensive but he has done well for a young domestic player. He will be a year older and wiser for the experience. Maybe the circumstances won’t overawe him this time and he can take his game to the next level. The last spot is between those two wicketkeeping players. We will see if one of these has it to take it to the next level.
The four international places are between nine players. I am being very risky in my choices and it might seem a little reckless. I would take Jayasuria, Bravo, Duminy and Napier.
Jayasuria is one of the world's best batsmen and one of five batsmen to score a century last season. Bravo was a talisman last year, providing great lower order runs in tandem and rescuing the Indians form dangerous positions time and time again.
It seems it is the year of the Duminy. Let’s see how he does here. Napier, people might not be aware off but he is an English player that seems to light the scoreboard. He scored 154 of 54 balls in twenty 20 last year in the domestic Twenty 20.
So the batting line up would be this:
Pinal Shah/ Yogesh Takawale.
Ladies and gentleman I present to you the longest and most destructive batting order. eight, maybe nine can all bat. That opening combo would put the fear of God under everyone. We only got to see this pair play a little last year because Tendulkar was hurt. As a fan this is a dream came true.
Dhawan played as No. 3 in Delhi and would fit well here. I wanted Napier at No. 4 because he might light it up or get out and this team has enough pinch hitters. Abhishek Nayar is perfect to save the game like he did many times last year. He seems much like a Michael Bevan type player. Not the one to clear the ground every ball but keeps what’s needed to win and does it smartly and stealthily.
Bravo and Nayar some good partnerships last year. Let’s see if they can’t do it again this year. This team has such a wealth of talent that I haven’t talked about Duminy yet. He seems to be everywhere and he can float and play anywhere in this order.
It is not as good as the bowling but they can hold its own. They are going to miss Pollock though. He often bowled the over that changed the game and had the best average and strike rate last year.
Bhaji and Zak are world lass and need to take the charge this year. By all report Bhaji respects SRT and will play much better without the pressure of captaincy.
Zaheer has been amazing all year for India and should continue his form here. However he is paired with a rookie Kulkarni that’s got a little practice. Dwayne Bravo, Abhishek Nayar and Sanath Jayasuria can all pitch in and bowl the other eight over.
I expect Bravo to bowl his quota of four overs every time. I only worry that this team might have to bowl eight overs of spin in the seaming tracks of South Africa.
The wicketkeeping is weak and trusted to one of two domestic players. Duminy, Nayer and Bravo are damn good. Sachin and Sanath are getting old and have tired legs. Remember the run out Jayasuria missed on the last bowl last year?
If the wicket is seaming and the bowling is weak it might be worth playing Fernando or Malinga instead of Napier to get some strong swing bowling going. You can add Kyle Mills when Bravo goes off to England.
I love the team’s consistency. They won’t have a lot of people leaving or coming back. Only Bravo will leave. Opening combo and long batting order are great strengths Last year they had a lot of people hurt land their batting order was a revolving door. Bhajji will be controlled this year and there won’t be another slap gate.
The fielding and wicket keeping is a concern as I said above. Some of their best players are getting older. They only have one South African so they might not get the most support from the crowd. Sachin wasn’t a great captain for India and I don’t know how he will do for 14 games this year. I don’t think he can inspire this team like Warne or Dhoni did last year.
Most Important Player: Sanath Jayasuria—four tight overs and a strong opening.
Expensive player riding the bench: Mohammed Ashraful—75,000—not too bad considering the other teams.
They are going to make the semis this year. They might even be top two.