The Mumbai Indians (MI) won their fourth Indian Premier League (IPL) title with a nail-biting win over the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) last season, as Lasith Malinga's wonderfully disguised slower ball trapped Shardul Thakur in front to leave MS Dhoni's men one run short.
The victory solidified Rohit Sharma's side as the most decorated in the history of the IPL, but all is not rosy for MI ahead of the 2020 IPL. Although their squad does look good on paper, there are a few holes in it that could be exploited, and their 'even years curse' (they've won the IPL in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019) might just continue.
In this article, we take a look at 3 reasons why MI won't be able to defend their title in the 2020 edition of the IPL.
#3 MI's IPL record in the UAE is horrific to say the least
For such a well-rounded team, it is quite incredible that in the 5 matches that MI have played in the UAE, they didn't register a single victory. The UAE leg of the 2014 IPL saw all other teams win at least two of the five games they played, with KXIP undefeated and CSK losing just one.
Although MI pulled off what looked near-impossible by finishing fourth and qualifying for the playoffs, they suffered a 7-wicket defeat to the Men in Yellow in the Eliminator to bow out of the competition. Glenn Maxwell's UAE heroics propelled the Kings XI Punjab to the final of the IPL, where they lost to Gautam Gambhir's KKR.
The reason behind MI's poor record in the UAE is not something that can be understood easily, with them being known as slow starters in every season. However, in a tournament which is going to be a completely new experience for everyone involved, some degree of familiarity with the conditions will be invaluable.
The unexpected event that is the UAE IPL might be the first stumbling block in MI's quest for a fifth title.
#2 The absence of a quality second spinner might hurt MI in the 2020 IPL
One of the main reasons why the IPL is going to be so different in the UAE is the far greater purchase that spinners will get off the dusty surfaces. All the other top contenders for the IPL crown have a plethora of spinners in their ranks.
CSK have Imran Tahir, Piyush Chawla, Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh, while the Kolkata Knight Riders can boast of Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav. The Delhi Capitals have Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel and Amit Mishra, while even the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are arguably the weakest side on paper, have Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar and Moeen Ali in their ranks.
But MI's spin attack features only one front-line tried-and-tested spinner - Rahul Chahar. Krunal Pandya is a key component of the side, but the Baroda all-rounder isn't a wicket-taker and has only 40 scalps in 55 games. With Chahar also cut from a similar cloth, MI lack an attacking spinner who could support the leggie.
Jayant Yadav and Anukul Roy are backup options, but they've played only a combined 13 games in the IPL. MI's lack of depth in the spin department could cost them dearly in the 2020 IPL.
#1 MI's pace attack looks threadbare barring Jasprit Bumrah
Barring Indian spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, MI's pace attack looks probably the worst it has ever looked. The only other recognised Indian pacer, Dhawal Kulkarni, has picked up only 13 wickets in the last three IPL seasons with economy rates of over 9 in all of them.
Veteran pacer Lasith Malinga is set to miss a large portion of the tournament owing to personal reasons, while new acquisition Trent Boult played only 5 games last year and has a career economy rate of 8.78.
Nathan Coulter-Nile was an expensive buy in the 2020 auction but last played an IPL game in 2017, and it is likely that he will be fighting it out for a place in the XI with Boult. Mitchell McClenaghan has been incredible for MI whenever called upon, but again, the New Zealand quick played just 5 games for the team last year and isn't a regular in the national setup anymore as well.
Hardik Pandya's hit-the-deck style of bowling might play right into the batsmen's hands in the UAE, while the other medium pace options - Sherfane Rutherford and Kieron Pollard - don't exactly inspire confidence.
MI will need Bumrah's supporting cast to step up if they are to defend their IPL title for the first time in their history.
Published 25 Aug 2020, 16:00 IST