Mumbai Indians 2014: Squad, Auction Deals, Captain and Probable Team
After a moderate first couple of years in the IPL, the Mumbai Indians have grown into one of the tournament's powerhouse teams, culminating in winning their first-ever title last season.
But in order to become just the second side to defend the trophy, Rohit Sharma's men have some serious obstacles to overcome.
Last year's joint-leading wicket-taker, Mitchell Johnson, has signed for the Kings XI Punjab and the reassuring presence of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting has disappeared with both legends retiring from the game.
With the 2014 season imminent, let's take a look at how will the men in blue are shaping up ahead of the new campaign?
As part of Bleacher Report's extensive coverage of this season's Indian Premier League, this slideshow will preview the Mumbai Indians prospects this year.
Batsmen: Rohit Sharma(c), CM Gautam, Sushant Marathe, Aditya Tare, Ambati Rayudu (wk) and Apoorv Wankhade
Bowlers: Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Jalaj Saxena, Shreyas Gopal, Jasprit Bumrah and Pawan Suyal
Batsmen: Michael Hussey and Ben Dunk
All-Rounders: Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson
Bowlers: Lasith Malinga, Josh Hazlewood, Krishmar Santokie and Marchant de Lange
With the retired Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting leaving gaping holes in the batting department, Mumbai had plenty of angles to consider during the 2014 auction.
They started by deciding to retain Sharma, Malinga, Pollard, Singh and Rayudu from last year's successful campaign which provided them with foundations for a strong XI.
And despite being unable to bring back the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Dwayne Smith, big-money moves for Mike Hussey, Kiwi sensation Corey Anderson and skillful left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan have added some potent weapons to the armoury.
Rating Their Business
Recruiting the evergreen Michael Hussey is a sound piece of business, as the Australian remains a tour de force in the T20 form of the game where his fearless presence at the top of the order is probably worth a couple of victories alone.
Additionally, Anderson, while raw and inexperienced is perhaps the most exciting all-rounder in cricket at the moment and, as per his record-breaking knock against the West Indies, is a game-changer.
In terms of bargains, Ben Dunk, the big-hitting Australian who topped the Big Bash League's run charts could prove to be great value for money...if he gets a game that is. And Santokie will be another steal if he can maintain the flying start he's made in his T20 International career.
Oddly, Mumbai have five wicketkeepers of varying levels on the books with Dunk, Rayudu, Gautam, Tare and Marathe all donning the gloves on occasions. So it remains to be seen whether the big bucks paid to retain Rayudu with his moderate return last season (265 runs from 17 innings at a strike rate of 114.71) will be a cost-effective move.
Captain and Coach
Mumbai's skipper Rohit Sharma led from the front last season scoring 538 runs from 19 innings at a strike rate of 131.54 to help his side lift the trophy.
And with the 26-year-old also excelling at international level of late to help fill the hole left by the retirement of Tendulkar, Sharma's confidence should be at an all-time high.
Former India and New Zealand coach John Wright led the Indians to success in his first season in charge, proving to be a cool head in the middle of the IPL madness.
The Mumbai Indians could line up something like this:
1) Michael Hussey
2) Aditya Tare
3) Rohit Sharma
4) Ambati Rayadu
5) Kieron Pollard
6) Corey Anderson
7) C.M. Gautam
8) Harbhajan Singh
9) Zaheer Khan
10) Pragyan Ojha
11) Lasith Malinga
Prediction for the Tournament
With all the necessary bases for T20 success seemingly covered and plenty of IPL experience in their ranks, it will be a surprise if the Mumbai Indians don't make the final four.
But for the big-spending defending champions, the expectation of their fanbase and ownership will be nothing less than a successful title defence.
The main worry will be replacing Johnson's 24 wickets, but if Khan can stay fit and Santokie can reproduce his West Indies' form, then they will take some beating.