IPL 2019: Can Mumbai Indians begin with a bang this year?
Mumbai Indians (MI) begin their IPL 2019 campaign against Delhi Capitals on 24th March. They play at home against Delhi, a team that knocked them out of the tournament last year. But that team was Delhi Daredevils, and the team this year is Delhi Capitals; a lot has changed for both teams during the course of a year.
Just as their opponents will be hoping for a turnaround, MI will also seek a change in fortunes this year.
In the previous edition, MI lost a lot of last-over battles. They were blown away by individual performances, but most importantly, they failed to hold their nerves when it mattered.
The key to winning the championship or rather qualifying for the playoffs is to start well; something that MI is not known for. However, things look optimistic for the three-time trophy holders this season.
Rohit at the top
Rohit Sharma has declared that he is going to lead from the front by opening the innings this year. Considering the World Cup 2019 is right around the corner, this seems like a good idea for the man who also opens the innings for India.
From MI’s point of view, this could be the ideal way of going about their batting this season. Too much chopping and changing at the top didn’t work out for them in 2018.
Rohit has the ammunition to destroy the bowlers once he gets going. And coming out to open will give him the much-needed time to get his eye in.
Once settled, he can step up the strike-rate or bat through the innings depending upon the situation - a role that MI’s icon player, Sachin Tendulkar, performed for them in earlier seasons.
Quinton de Kock or Evin Lewis could be walking out with Rohit to open the innings, depending upon their availability and form. A solid opening partnership is essential to take the pressure off the middle order.
The Pandya brothers and the middle order
In the previous season, Rohit batted in the middle order as there was no experienced campaigner who could be relied on to take the team through during crunch situations. Kieron Pollard not being his usual self, made things worse.
This season, MI have Yuvraj Singh but his career has been lackluster in the recent past. Therefore, the onus of performing consistently would fall on the likes of Suryakumar Yadav (who accumulated 512 runs last season), Ishan Kishan, Pollard, and the Pandya brothers.
There’s no doubt that Hardik Pandya is a match winner. However, due to his recurring back injury, there’s a question mark over his availability and sustainability throughout the season.
His workload management also becomes crucial considering he is India’s premier all-rounder. That makes the role of his brother, Krunal Pandya, all the more important.
The older Pandya brother is experienced and the situation demands him to be wiser as well. Krunal’s four overs become a certainty in spin-friendly conditions. He can also bowl wicket-to-wicket in the powerplay.
Krunal has already shown his potential with the bat, and would like to be seen as a finisher.
Boom and bang
The combination of Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga is lethal, especially at the death. It is going to be interesting to see whether MI use these two for attack or defense.
The young Mayank Markande is a clear wicket-taking option in the middle overs. Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Jason Behrendorff, and Ben Cutting are other bowling options that can swing the game in MI’s favor.
Every season, teams take time to find the right combination. Often, the team that finds this balance early, starts on a winning note. A few losses in the middle of the tournament do not hurt them that badly in such a scenario.
However, if a team takes a lot of time to settle early on, like MI usually do, they end up paying the price eventually.
Indian cricket’s legend Zaheer Khan will be seen in MI’s dugout this season as Director of Cricket Operations. His involvement gives the team a great strategic boost. The management, players as well as the fans will want Zaheer to help MI start IPL 2019 with a bang and end with a trophy.