Discussing a team like MI whose benchwarmers later proved out to be a sensation for the respective teams they played for, be it Chahal, Maxwell, or Kuldeep can be tricky. Comparing Rohit’s affection towards a meek and yet fiery animal, Rhino, with Mumbai Indians I can say he is leading another fight for Rhinos. MI, to me, is similar to Rhinos in a sense that they rely on momentum, though they can be harrowed initially, but, when they set themselves in momentum, they are as hard as confronting a raging Rhino. Having won IPL thrice already I see MI set to take on the challenge for the fourth time with a team, well poised.
Having no other option available other than Rohit, they will be finally opening with Rohit permanently this season, unlike earlier editions. With another flamboyant and fierce Caribbean batsman Evin Lewis, who has the ability to start from the word go, MI already have two guys who, on their day can win them games single-handedly. But one thing which I am concerned about their opening pair is I don’t see any replacement matching their abilities and potential, in case either gets injured, hopefully not. Following them should be their wicket-keeper batsman, Ishan Kishan, who has shown recently and a glimpse of it last year playing for Gujarat Lions, what he is capable of. At number 4, I think it may vary with all-rounder MI would be playing with. If they play with Pollard which they probably will, I feel they can send Hardik having the skillset to tong spinners for long sixes during mid overs. Otherwise, if they go with Duminy, captain of the South African T20 squad, who got back in form in the latest India-South Africa T20 games and have a great record in IPL, they, in my opinion, should hold Pandya back and send Duminy up at 4. Even if they go for their another all-rounder option, Ben Cutting, they can send Pandya up at 4. At 6 it will be another Pandya, Krunal, an asset which he has proved himself for MI, who can hit the ball well and provides a left arm option in spin. At 7, I feel Suryakumar Yadav will play the role which he was playing for KKR earlier, coming and playing some cheeky shots for some quick runs. For next position, there could be two guys in my opinion, who can play, Pat Cummins and his Kiwi counterpart, Mitch McClenaghan. Though Pat Cummins can be choice of many, there will be two reasons that MI might go with McClenaghan in the early stage, at least. Firstly, after a toiling test season in Australia and South Africa, Pat Cummins may be feeling little exhausted. Secondly, McClenaghan for MI has always performed in the past and has more experience at IPL than Cummins, though that’s not a strong reason to leave a player like Cummins out. So, either of them would be playing with Cummins being the priority. As the venue would demand, they may opt Akila Dhananjaya who caught people’s eyes in recent India-Lanka series, for spin friendly or Fizz(Mustafizur Rahman) for seam-friendly pitches. Leading the charge from the bowling front would be blazing Bumrah, probably the best bowler in the world in shorter versions of the game. At last would be Rahul Chahar providing spin support to the bowling front for MI. Though they have plenty bowling options they only have Sandeep Sangwan as the replacement for Bumrah in an emergency situation.
A player who I will be keen to watch out for this season from MI camp will be blistering and incredible Evin Lewis, who on his day, as he says, can hit any bowler. If he gets the momentum going for himself, I would doubt if there would be any stopping for MI.
Tentative Playing XI :
1. Evin Lewis 2. Rohit Sharma 3. Ishan Kishan 4. Hardik Pandya/JP Duminy 5. Pollard / Ben Cutting / JP Duminy 6. Krunal Pandya 7. Suryakumar Yadav 8. Pat Cummins / Mitch McClenaghan 9. Mustafizur / Akila Dhananjaya 10. Jasprit Bumrah 11. Rahul Chahar