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>IPL 2010 Team Preview: Mumbai Indians

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If there is one team that has consistently performed below their potential in both seasons of the IPL, it has to be the Mumbai Indians. The most-followed team on television finished just outside the top four in the inaugural edition of 2008, which also saw them come into their own with an inspirational six-match winnings streak between a disastrous start and lackluster finish. The second season in South Africa saw their fortunes slip further, as the finished above only the miserable Kolkata Knight Riders.

This year, however, the team in general has been making all the right noises in the buildup to the cash-rich cricketing spectacle. Foremost among these, the team owner, one of the richest men in the world, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, showed the depth of his pockets in the signing of Caribbean dynamite Kieron Pollard via an undisclosed tiebreaker, after tying with the Kolkata Knight Riders at the purchasing cap of $750,000. Also, captain Sachin Tendulkar has just slammed the first ever double ton in ODI history, and his personal luck and form are certain to carry into the Indians’ side once the IPL commences.

These factors, coupled with the abundance of talent that has just not clicked as yet when required, might just tip the scales in favour of the Indians. Besides, as seen in the previous edition, the teams finishing at the bottom in the first season contested the finals of the next, and if the trend is to continue, we may very well see the coveted trophy lifted by the veteran hands of the Little Master.

Player-by-player analysis:
Even in the presence of Pollard, the team’s main trump card remains the opening combination. The sight of stalwarts, no legends, like Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya walking out to open the innings is enough to fill stands in their own right. This pair has easily spent the most number of days on a field playing international cricket and their combined experience is more than that of most XIs combined. Besides, one cannot write them off quoting T20 to be a young man’s game. Jayasuriya can still, on his day, put any young T20 specialist batsman to shame with his bludgeoning strokeplay. However, the rider ‘on his day’ stays and those ‘days’ are sadly fewer and far between as the years progress. Meanwhile, Sachin only continues to improve, as his latest exploits prove, and will, in all probability be at an unprecedented best this year.

Last year, the signing of JP Duminy had saved face for the Indians in a completely lackluster tournament. He was easily their most consistent player, with 5 fifties in his 12 outings, and had proved to be the backbone of the side. His stock has fallen considerably since last year, with some ordinary performances for South Africa, but he will be itching to prove his rise and rise of previous years was no fluke. Besides, his world-famous, or rather notorious partnership-breaking skills with the ball are bound to come in handy on the spin friendly Indian tracks.

Let us now come to the man who has generated most of the buzz around Mumbai. In earlier editions, Mumbai clearly lacked a lower-order finisher as was evident from how they seemed to lose games at the very end in close finishes. In the auction this year, they clearly gunned only and only for that man who could turn it around for them, Kieron Pollard (as we had clearly predicted before the auction). Pollard, at 22, has achieved a lot more than most 22-year olds do. He is something of a T20 nomad of sorts, playing in T20 leagues around the world. He shot to international superstardom with his brilliant 18-ball 54 in the Champions League for Trinidad and Tobago against the New South Wales Blues and single-handedly won the match from an impossible situation. He then was signed up by South Australia for the Aussie domestic KFC Twenty20 Big Bash, and helped them into the finals with his monstrous hitting. For the Mumbai Indians this year, he is a certainty in the playing XI and fans will look towards him to get the job done.

Pollard’s gain is likely to by fellow West Indian Dwayne Bravo’s loss as he will probably sit out seeing as only 4 overseas players are allowed in any playing XI. Bravo made a significant contribution lower down the order in the previous editions, but will probably only get his chance only if Duminy or Jayasuriya consistently underperform.

Mumbai has quite a few decent local batsmen to play around the big names, like Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Nayar, Shikhar Dhawan and Saurabh Tiwary. These boys will have to stand up and be counted if Mumbai are to fulfill their dreams. It has been seen in past editions that teams like Chennai and Delhi have proved consistently stronger because of their local batting depth.

The wicketkeeper’s slot has been a major weakness for Mumbai in the past. Wicketkeeper-batsmen have proved to be the most valuable players in the IPL, with names like MS Dhoni, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara and Brendon McCullum proving successful. Mumbai lacked a matchwinner in this position, and will see a change of personnel this year. Promising youngster Aditya Tare and Chandan Madan replace Pinal Shah and Yogesh Takawale, and Tare is likely to get the chance to play, unless a major change of strategy allows Aussie Luke Ronchi back into the squad of 23.

The bowling is where Mumbai’s class really comes through. They possess the best Indian pacer as well as spinner on offer, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, and once again, let it be said that the team with the best local talent is most likely to come out on top with 7 out of 11 being Indians. Besides, Mumbai have the pace and firepower of lethal Sri Lankan slinger Lasith Malinga, who is more than capable of working up a furious pace, and his low-slung fiery Yorkers are among the best in the business. Dilhara Fernando comprises backup, and Graham Napier and Ryan McLaren are the two other overseas allrounders waiting in the wings. Dhawal Kulkarni has risen through the ranks of domestic first class circles in the past year and is likely to get the third pacer’s slot.

The Mumbai Indians have made smart use of the exodus of Indian players from the ICL, signing names like Ambati Rayudu and Rajagopal Sathish. These men have been fairly successful in the rebel league, not to mention the valuable experience they have of the shortest format, and it will be interesting to see how they figure in the Mumbai Indians’ scheme of things

Squad:

Batsmen: Sachin Tendulkar, JP Duminy, Shikhar Dhawan, Saurabh Tiwary, Ambati Rayud, Abhishek Nayar
All-rounders: Sanath Jayasuriya, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Graham Napier, Ryan McLaren, Rajagopal Sathish, Ali Murtaza
Wicketkeepers: Chandan Madan, Aditya Tare, Luke Ronchi (not in squad of 23),
Bowlers: Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Dhawal Kulkarni, Syed Sahabuddin, Ishan Malhotra, Rahul Shukla.

Support Staff:
Head Coach: Robin Singh, Deputy Coach: Paras Mhambrey, Fielding Coach: Jonty Rhodes, Fitness Coach: Ramji Srinivasan, Physiotherapist: Nitin Patel

Likely Playing XI: Sanath Jayasuriya, Sachin Tendulkar(capt), Ajinkya Rahane, JP Duminy, Abhishek Nayar, Kieron Pollard, Aditya Tare(wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga, Dhawal Kulkarni

Players to watch:


Kieron Pollard
: This one was a no-brainer. When you shell out $750000 on a T20 specialist, you expect great things from him. Moreover, he will get the ideal platform in the Mumbai side to launch his pyrotechnics, whereas had he been picked by someone else, he would have been forced to rub shoulders with another lower-order slogger as most other teams do already have one.
Abhishek Nayar: This man has been in red-hot form in the domestic first class season, and he has the game to convert that success to the shorter formats. We have had glimpses of his big-hitting in the previous seasons, and this might be the one in which he comes good big time. Besides, fringe players such as he will look upon the IPL as a way of getting into the reckoning for the upcoming World Twenty20 and a good performance will surely not go unnoticed.
Dark Horse: The ex-ICL stars – Ambati Rayudu and Rajagopal Sathish are unknown commodities due to their absence from conventional cricketing circles. All they need is that one opportunity at this level, and one may see them flourish.

Mumbai kickstart their campaign on the 13th of March, hosting the Rajasthan Royals at the Brabourne Stadium. They would want to begin on a winning note, especially as this time they are the stronger side on paper, and because they next face Delhi in Delhi, which might prove a hard nut to crack. Their next two games are at home against the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders. The Royal Challengers have a 2-2 record against Mumbai, and hence, Mumbai would want to press the home advantage and go for a win, in a match that is likely to be closely contested, as past games between the two sides have proved. Mumbai have a complete dominance over Kolkata, winning all four matches against them handsomely, and would want to continue the same.

Mumbai thus should be targeting three wins out of the first four, as the next three matches are tough ones against giants Chennai, and Deccan and Punjab, all of whom have won against Mumbai thrice while losing just once. Thus at the halfway mark, Mumbai will be happy only with at least 4 wins, especially as all the games of the first leg are home games and the second leg against each side will be played away. Failing to win 4 matches out of 7 will make the second half of the tournament very difficult for Mumbai, and in such an eventuality it must be said Mumbai’s semi-final hopes will be dashed for a third year running.

Mumbai’s home games will be played at the historic Brabourne Stadium in Churchgate and at the ultramodern 55,000-seating DY Patil Stadium in Nerul, Navi Mumbai, which is the second-largest stadium in the country after Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Mumbai will be playing at Brabourne for the first time, as Wankhede Stadium had been the home venue in the first season and the second was outsourced to South Africa. Mumbai has thus far won 4 out of 7 home matches, which suggests they haven’t made full use of the home crowd support.

Mumbai Indians Fixtures:

Schedule in Mumbai:
Sat March 13 vs Rajasthan Royals (at Brabourne), 3pm
Sat March 20 vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (at Brabourne) , 8pm
Mon March 22 vs Kolkata Knightriders (at Brabourne) , 8pm
Thu March 25 vs Chennai Super Kings (at Brabourne) , 8pm
Sun March 28 vs Deccan Chargers (at DY Patil) , 8pm (supposedly an away game, but we know which way the crowd will sing)
Tue March 30 vs Kings XI Punjab (at Brabourne) , 8pm
Sat April 3 vs Deccan Chargers (at Brabourne) , 8pm
Tue April 13 vs Delhi Daredevils (at Brabourne) , 4pm

Schedule away from Mumbai:
Wed March 17 vs Delhi Daredevils , 8pm
Tue April 6 vs Chennai Super Kings , 8pm
Fri April 9 vs Kings XI Punjab , 8pm
Sun April 11 vs Rajasthan Royals , 8pm
Sat April 17 vs Royal Challengers Bangalore , 4pm
Mon April 19 vs Kolkata Knightriders , 8pm

March 9, 2010 - Posted by | Indian Premier League, IPL, IPL 2010, Mumbai Indians, Team Preview

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