The CricViz season preview for Mumbai Indians.
The foundation of Mumbai’s success is the strength of their domestic core. Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, the Pandya brothers and Jasprit Bumrah have formed a spine around which overseas players are slotted. Having strong domestic players is so fundamental in the IPL because they make up 63% of the playing XI and relying on overseas players is rarely a strategy for sustained success.
Mumbai’s first choice batting order is absurdly strong and wonderfully varied with a great mix of left-handers and right-handers, experience and youth, wicket preservers and run scorers and pace hitters and spin hitters. Their likely top seven is arguably as good as some international teams. They are likely to line-up with Rohit and Quinton de Kock opening, with Suryakumar at three, Ishan Kishan at four ahead of the power-hitters Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya with Krunal Pandya floating up and down the order as a spin power-hitter. This is a batting order that has almost every base covered. Rohit has confirmed he is going to open this season which is a move that best exploits his skills and he’ll form a nice right-hand, left-hand combination with de Kock at the top of the order. Suryakumar is one of the most underrated batsmen in the IPL and is arguably unlucky not to be playing for India. Across the last two seasons – since he moved to Mumbai – Suryakumar has scored 936 runs in the IPL – the sixth most of all players and he has done so with a higher average batting impact than Virat Kohli. The strongest aspect of Mumbai’s batting is their death overs hitting with Pollard and Hardik – last season they scored at strike rates of 156 and 191 respectively. The areas of concern in the batting order are around the left-handers Kishan and Krunal – both of whom are strong players of spin but can struggle against high pace bowling and last season both of them recorded a negative average batting impact. Generally Mumbai deploy them smartly and in a way that covers their weaknesses. The move to the UAE and lower, slower pitches should suit both players.
Mumbai’s other clear strength is their pace bowling. The defending champions are renowned for packing their squad with high quality quick bowlers and this season is no different despite the fact that they are without the club legend Lasith Malinga. Bumrah will lead the attack and will have superb support from the overseas quartet of Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson, Mitchell McClenaghan and Trent Boult, as well as Hardik’s aggressive lengths. Such is the strength of Mumbai’s domestic batting that they are able to adopt a 2-2 overseas balance meaning two of the four overseas players are likely to start. Mumbai’s four overseas bowlers bring a variety of skills with Boult being a Powerplay swing bowler, McClenaghan an aggressive wicket-hunter, Coulter-Nile a top and tail operator and Pattinson a new ball specialist. Mumbai have also brought in Dhawal Kulkarni from Rajasthan to reinforce their domestic depth.
Mumbai are able to maintain superb balance thanks to the presence of three all rounders in their team: Pollard and the Pandya brothers, on whom they only need to rely on for four overs.
While Mumbai have always packed their bowling attack with high quality quicks the same is not the case with their spin bowlers. Mumbai’s home venue being the Wankhede has generally seen them place less emphasis on spin bowling. Across the last few years left-arm spinner Krunal has been a regular pick for them alongside a young leg spinner with Mayank Markande being the first choice in 2018 and Rahul Chahar in 2019. Both these leg spinners have excelled in each season, justifying Mumbai’s faith in them and the strategy of backing unknown wrist spinners. However, ahead of every season it does seem like a potential area of concern. In a typical season they are helped by their home venue being a pace-friendly venue but this year the emphasis on spin has increased with the shift to the UAE. This season will be the sternest test yet of Mumbai’s spin strategy. This year Chahar is joined by the young leg spinner Prince Balwat Rai who was spotted by Mumbai’s extensive scouting network, left-arm spinner Anukul Roy and off spinner Jayant Yadav.
Mumbai’s starting XI is supreme. However, except the pace bowling, their squad depth is a concern. Kishan’s poor form means he is the most vulnerable player in the starting XI but none of Mumbai’s reserve domestic batsmen are pushing hard for selection. With Saurabh Tiwary probably the front-runner ahead of Anmolpreet Singh and Aditya Tare. The young all rounder Anukul Roy who also bowls left-arm spin could come into the equation if Mumbai feel they need additional spin options on wearing pitches. The overseas batting back-ups are Chris Lynn and Sherfane Rutherford, two batsman in really poor form who were both dropped from their teams in the recently concluded CPL with Lynn scoring 138 runs in nine innings at just over a run-a-ball and Rutherford scoring 39 runs in six innings at less than a run-a-ball. Lynn was a superb auction pick-up when Mumbai were going to be playing their home matches at the Wankhede because the true pitch and small boundaries there would be to his liking but the move to the UAE, and slower, lower pitches, really neuters his effectiveness.
Lasith Malinga’s absence
Mumbai have loads of pace bowling options but the absence of a player of Malinga’s experience, class and pedigree is a blow to the defending champions. Malinga has been a legendary performer for Mumbai, sealing their fourth title last year with a nerveless final over and him not being there breaks up Mumbai’s death over axis of Bumrah and Malinga that has been the foundation of their bowling strength over the last half a decade.
- Rohit Sharma (RH)
- Quinton de Kock (LH & WK
- Suryakumar Yadav (RH)
- Ishan Kishan (LH & WK
- Hardik Pandya (RH & RFM)
- Krunal Pandya (LH & SLA)
- Kieron Pollard (RH & RMF)
- Rahul Chahar (LS)
- Trent Boult (LFM)
- Mitchell McClenaghan (LFM)
- Jasprit Bumrah (RF)
Which overseas quicks?
Mumbai often rotate one of their two overseas bowling spots depending on form and match-ups but Malinga’s absence means they now have two spots to fill. It is likely that Coulter-Nile’s death ability and hitting prowess will see him take one spot. Given Pattinson was the last to be signed – as a replacement for Malinga – it seems likely that he’s the fourth in line which means the two left-armers are fighting for a spot. Boult will bring Powerplay swing but McClenaghan is also very effective in that first phase and probably more versatile in that he can operate through the middle as an enforcer in the way Boult can’t. Mumbai are likely to rotate these spots a fair amount through the season.
It will be interesting to see how firmly Mumbai back Kishan if he struggles for form as he did last season. He is a prodigious talent but this will be his fifth IPL season and Mumbai may not indulge his potential much longer without more notable returns. Across his four IPL seasons he has shown flashes of brilliance but has never recorded a positive average batting impact.