Every franchise league has one dominant team, in trophy count that is. In the Indian Premier League, that team is Mumbai Indians. In the first five years, between 2008-2012, they didn’t have a trophy to their name. The trophy count started in the year 2013. They went on to win every alternate year, 2015, ‘17, and ‘19. They managed to defend the title in 2020.
But the last two years didn’t pan out the way they wanted, especially in 2022. They ended up at the foot of the table for the first time in their 15-year IPL stint.
They have had setbacks, and they have bounced back strongly. Will it be a similar case in 2023? Here is an anecdote: Before the 2022 edition, 2009 had been their worst-ever season as they finished second-to-bottom. In the follow-up year (2010), however, they topped the table and ended as runners-up.
The question this time around is, do they have the balance to achieve that? Have they filled in the voids from last year in the mini-auction? And the biggest katzenjammer, how can they nullify Jasprit Bumrah’s absence?
Have they plugged the necessary loopholes from last year?
The answer to that is yes and no.
In the 2022 edition, their major area of concern was the spin department. In the middle overs (7-15), their spinners picked up only 12 wickets, the least after Sunrisers Hyderabad. Their economy rate of 8.4 and balls/boundary ratio of 6.4 was the worst among all teams.
This year, they have roped in the experienced Piyush Chawla and Shams Mulani. The latter was excellent for Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy. This is the ‘yes’ part.
The ‘no’ part is a worrying one. When the auction was held, Bumrah’s situation was dicey, and Jofra Archer was coming out of a one-and-half-year-long injury layoff. Keeping these situations in mind, Mumbai didn’t sign the right back up for these guys.
Jhye Richardson is ruled out and Jason Behrendorff is injury prone. In hindsight, you could say it was a bit short-sighted of MI to replace their key bowlers, whose situation was uncertain, with players who have a long history of injuries. Neither Archer nor Behrendorff might play all 14 matches.
What could help them win the title?
Mumbai have an advantage that most teams long for. Their top four batters, Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma are all Indians. With this, they can afford to play with the perfect set of four overseas players. Cameron Green, the pace bowling all-rounder, and Tim David, the finisher, alongside two fast bowlers, Jofra Archer and Jason Behrendorff.
Every aforementioned player has immense potential, so in a season plagued by injuries, if each of those players turn that potential into performance, then there is no stopping them.
Also, there is a surprise element that could help them. The Indian seamers in their squad all possess an air of mystery due to their relative unknownness. For instance, Arshad Khan has played only three List-A matches throughout his career, but his exploits in the DY Patil T20 Cup 2023 were commendable — he picked up 10 wickets at an economy of 7.2 and a strike rate of 12.6.
Akash Madhwal, too, is coming off a good SMAT season. Should one of their domestic pace bowlers click, it would do Mumbai a world of good. There is also Arjun Tendulkar, who has been a part of the MI set-up for quite some time now.
MVP – Suryakumar Yadav
What can help them win in home and away matches?
After three seasons, the home and away fixtures are back.
Mumbai are a pace-heavy side. With Archer, Behrendorff and Green as their main pacers, Wankhede is a venue that could help their bowling set-up, especially in the first six overs.
In the IPL since 2021, pacers have picked up a wicket every 21.6 balls in the powerplay at Wankhede, the best among all venues. This is good news for Mumbai, who are likely to go with three outright pacers, two pace bowling all-rounders and one spinner.
Their bowling attack is not tailor-made to succeed away from home, but they do have Piyush Chawla’s experience. The IPL veteran has bowled at least 20 overs across nine different Indian venues in the IPL. Among all active IPL players, only Bhuvneshwar Kumar has achieved this feat in 10 different venues.
Player availability and Injury concerns
The 16th edition of the IPL hasn’t even started and Mumbai have already suffered two major blows, one of them being the injury to their lynchpin. Although there’s been no confirmation so far, Bumrah is likely to be ruled out, while the side has already lost the services of Jhye Richardson, whose season ended after he picked up a hamstring injury.
Can MI replace Richardson?
One option is Wayne Parnell, who had a great season with Pretoria Capitals in the inaugural edition of the SA20. He picked up 10 wickets at an economy of 7.3 and scored 64 runs at a strike rate of 164.1.
Luke Wood, a death-over specialist, and Richard Gleeson, an all-phase hit-the-deck bowler, could also be viable options.
But what options do Mumbai have to replace Bumrah, if he is ruled out for the entire season?
Hmmm, thinking…?? Yep, they are doomed. Bumrah’s spot could be occupied by a replacement player, but it’d be impossible for anyone to produce the same impact.
With conditions feasible for fast bowlers at Wankhede, Mumbai have the liberty of going with one spinner and five pacers.
Probable XI – Home – Rohit Sharma (c), Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Verma, Cameron Green, Tim David, Ramandeep Singh, Jofra Archer, Kumar Karthikeya, Jason Behrendorff, Arshad Khan/Akash Madhwal
Depending on the conditions and ground dimensions, Mumbai can alter their combination in away matches. If they are playing on slow surfaces like Chennai, Lucknow and Delhi, they can afford to go with three spinners. On other pitches, two spinners and four pacers could work well.
Probable XI – Away – Rohit Sharma (c), Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Verma, Cameron Green, Tim David, Shams Mulani/Ramandeep Singh, Piyush Chawla, Jofra Archer, Kumar Karthikeya, Arshad Khan/Akash Madhwal