Will Mumbai Indians be able to defend the IPL title?
After stacking up their team with too many all-rounders in the auction, Mumbai Indians will be hoping that these very players give them a competitive edge over other franchises and lead them to their fourth IPL title in 2018. With all the combinations of four foreign internationals and keeping in mind, the Wankhede track, this seems to be the ideal XI for Mumbai Indians in the home matches (the overseas players have been marked with an asterisk sign):
Evin Lewis*, Ishan Kishan (WK), Rohit Sharma (C), Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard*, Krunal Pandya, Surya Kumar Yadav, Anukul Roy, Jason Behrendorff*, Mustafizur Rahman*, Jasprit Bumrah.
Let's start analyzing on the batting front. With a strike rate of 154.97 and a batting average of 36 for the West Indies in the shortest format of the game, Evin Lewis is something to look out for. The recent form of Ishan Kishan (century against Services and a half-century against Hyderabad) makes him a strong contender for the opening role.
Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, and Kieron Pollard form a formidable middle order. Everyone has the potential to turn the match single-handedly. With Virat Kohli and Indian management promoting Hardik up the order often, he would look to grab the No. 4 position for Mumbai Indians. A strike rate of 131.61 in IPL makes Suryakumar Yadav an excellent choice for the No. 7 position. Anukul Roy with his quickfire 33 against Pakistan and 28 against South Africa in the recently concluded U-19 World Cup does ensure that the batting would have depth.
Moving on to the bowling department, Mustafizur Rahman and Jasprit Bumrah would have eight overs up their sleeves which every opposition batsman would be wary of before facing Mumbai. The left arm pacer Jason Behrendorff would add more spice to the line-up. For the remaining eight overs, they have options amongst the Pandya brothers, Anukul and even Pollard.
Hardik Pandya should look forward to grabbing this opportunity of bowling four overs for Mumbai. Anukul Roy has been the highest wicket-taker in the U-19 World Cup and Krunal Pandya is a proven match winner. That gives them 24 overs with Kieron Pollard still not being called to roll his arm over. Even with one bowler having a bad day, this seems to be a sorted combination.
It's a young team and all of them are excellent athletes. Both the batting and the bowling departments of the Mumbai Indians seem to be sorted. Catches win you matches and the Mumbai Indians have some stellar fielders to take care of this function.
With a strong bench strength in the form of players like JP Duminy, Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting, Saurabh Tiwary, and many more, Mumbai Indians seem well poised on paper to defend their title. Its just time to go out and execute the plans, something they have been extremely good at, having been the most successful IPL franchise with three IPL titles.