So close, yet so far. That’s been the story of Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL) till now. Finalists in the third season, third-placed finish in the fourth (after losing the second play-off to RCB), the franchise – that seems to be the most balanced sides in the tournament – hasn’t been able to lay its hands on the coveted trophy as yet.
So, what does IPL 5 have in store for the franchise that belongs to Nita and Mukesh Ambani?
From practice facilities to coaching and support staff, hotels, pre-tournament hype, sponsorships deals – the works — Mumbai Indians players have access to some of the best talent and amenities. Only a trophy in the cupboard is missing.
On paper, they seem even more invincible this time, with a near-perfect combination. A good set of opening batsmen, with none other than Sachin Tendulkar at the helm, a strengthened middle-order, a newly bought wicket-keeper-batsman and an attack that consists of two of the best pace bowlers in the format, a good off-spinner and an equally efficient left-arm slow bowler. Mumbai Indians have it all and are major contenders for the title this season.
The franchise has quietly gone about adding meat to the line-up. So, Tendulkar will have young Ambati Rayudu coming in at No. 3, followed by Rohit Sharma, West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard (when he arrives), South Africa’s Twenty20 sensation Richard Levi and wicket-keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik.
In Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga, the franchise is assured of four quality overs that not only produce wickets, but guarantee economic spells. The team has also roped in left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha to add variety to the attack.
To keep the squad in good mental and physical shape, they have a long list of support staff too headed by former South African all-rounder Shaun Pollock. Pollock doesn’t actively participate in any cricketing assignments back home in South Africa, but has made an exception for Mumbai Indians. Ditto for Jonty Rhodes, who is a banker back home, but the fielding coach with Tendulkar’s team.
The duo takes care of the team’s physical fitness and skills and, to take care of the mental bit, the franchise has invited none other than renowned explorer-adventurer Mike Horn. His unique methods add a new dimension to MI’s challenge.
Indian angle: Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Rudra Pratap Singh, Abu Nechim, Aditya Tare, Ambati Rayudu, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pawan Suyal, Surya Kumar Yadav, Sushant Marathe, Tirumalasetti Suman, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal, Apporv Wankhede, Sujit Nayak, Rahul Shukla, Kuldeep Yadav, Amitoze Singh, Jaydev Shah.
Foreign Players: Aiden Blizzard, David Jacobs, Herschelle Gibbs, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Robin Pieterson, Thisara Perera, Richard Levi, Clint McKay.
Team mentor and bowling coach: Shaun Pollock; Head coach: Robin Singh; Assistant coach: Paras Mhambrey; Advisor-cum-fielding coach: Jonty Rhodes; Bowling coach: Lance Klusener; Trainer: Mathhew Dwyer; Physiotherapist: Robert Gibson; Physio: Neil Walker; Video analyst: CKM Dhananjai.
Overall balance is Mumbai Indians’ biggest strength. They have some very good hitters, athletic fielders, a good pace attack and fine spinners too. The team has twice come close to winning a title and maybe, with a bit of luck, 2012 can be their year.
Until last season, the absence of a regular wicketkeeper- batsman did hurt. That has now been taken care of with the inclusion of Karthik. Also missing was a good left-arm spinner, which again has been taken care of by bringing in Ojha
Starwatch: Those who can make the difference
Sachin Tendulkar: Tendulkar is the face of Mumbai Indians. Thanks to him, they have been the most popular team in IPL. Tendulkar is hungry for the one Cup that is yet to adorn his cupboard and that should make him a dangerous customer.
Kieron Pollard: The West Indies’ all rounder has been an invaluable asset for MI since 2010. Pollard is an aggressive batsman who can walk in at any point of the match and change it, is a useful bowler and an exceptional fielder too.
Dinesh Karthik: A specialist wicket-keeper and an aggressive batsman, Karthik balances the squad further and allows the team to play an extra foreigner who doesn’t have to keep wickets. His experience should come in handy too.
Lasith Malinga: T20 comes naturally to this slinger from Lanka. Malinga has recorded some of the stingiest economy rates in IPL and his four-over spells have often sounded the death-knell for batsmen. He can bowl very, very fast too.