x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Indian Premier League: Australians will lead Mumbai Indians' charge

Having imported a strong contingent of Australians the Mumbai Indians are aiming to capture the Indian Premier League for the first time, writes Osman Samiuddin.

Ricky Ponting will be chief among the Mumbai Indians. The Australian has been chosen to captain the side's campaign in the Indian Premier League this season.
Ricky Ponting will be chief among the Mumbai Indians. The Australian has been chosen to captain the side's campaign in the Indian Premier League this season.

A true cricketing bread basket of India and producer of her finest batsmen, Mumbai are easily the most successful side in the regular domestic season Ranji Trophy.

Success for the city's Indian Premier League franchise, the Mumbai Indians (MI), has not been quite so abundant.

But there are signs they are getting closer and closer. A title in the glitzy, blingy world of the IPL would only be fitting reward for the franchise of the nation's financial heart, owned in turn by one of the country's most prominent businessmen, Mukesh Ambani.

And though he hardly needs any more prizes, you suspect Sachin Tendulkar would not mind adding an IPL crown to his many others as he winds down a long, long career.

 

Prospects

Man for man, in this format, Mumbai probably do not have the strongest squad around, but you would be silly to rule them out of contention and overlook their consistent form over the past three seasons.

They have been fairly extravagant in their buys this year (favouring mostly Australians) and it may still prove risky.

But they retain a solid enough core and the addition to management of the respected John Wright as head coach and equally respected Anil Kumble as chief mentor (watery vague as that role is) can only strengthen them.

 

Star foreign signing

Take your pick between the new-age million-dollar man, Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, or the old-school Australian Ricky Ponting.

We are tempted to plump for Ponting, because Mumbai have brought him in not only as batsman, they have made him captain, replacing Harbajhan Singh. It is a strange decision given that he has never looked entirely comfortable in the format.

But it was the brainchild, apparently, of Kumble and Tendulkar (thereby scotching rumours of his own return to leadership this season). They are not the worse brains to rely upon for decision-making.

 

Star Indian player

Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara have overtaken him, but there was a time when Rohit Sharma was the brightest young thing in Indian cricket. For a combination of off-field reasons and on-field chinks, he has not quite made it, but that time may still come.

Elegant and upright at the crease and with a range of the loveliest traditional strokes, Sharma has been proof that you can thrive in this format despite being considered an orthodox batsman.

He has had a good couple of seasons with Mumbai and is the only man in their current squad with a century to his name (alongside, inevitably, the incomparable Tendulkar).

A reassuring presence in the middle.

 

Previous history

Mumbai have the second-best winning percentage in the IPL (43 wins and 33 losses over all five seasons), and are only behind Chennai Super Kings.

Apart from the first couple of seasons, they have been a solid contender every time.

They were runners-up in 2010, when they actually finished top of the league, and lost in the pre-final eliminators in both the last two seasons, after finishing third in the league table.

The only thing missing is a title.

 

Home ground: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

Effectively the home of Indian cricket, the 45,000-seater is not far from the sea and thus always open to helping swing bowlers early in the day. It was here that India won the 2011 World Cup and it provides a spiritual backdrop to the IPL’s six-hitting: it was on this ground that Ravi Shastri hit six sixes in one over in a first-class game in 1984/85.

 

The Fixtures

April 4 v Royal Challengers Bangalore (Away)

April 6 v Chennai Super Kings (A)

April 9 v Delhi Daredevils (Home)

April 13 v Pune Warriors (H)

April 17 v Rajasthan Royals (A)

April 21 v Delhi Daredevils (A)

April 24 v Kolkata Knight Riders (A)

April 27 v Royal Challengers Bangalore (H)

April 29 v Kings XI Punjab (H)

May 1 v Sunrisers Hyderabad (A)

May 5 v Chennai Super Kings (H)

May 7 v Kolkata Knight Riders (H)

May 11 v Pune Warriors (A)

May 13 v Sunrisers Hyderabad (H)

May 15 v Rajasthan Royals (H)

May 18 v Kings XI Punjab (A)

 

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

 

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