Defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) ended the auctions as the strongest and most balanced side on paper. With no major loopholes to cover except for bringing in backups for certain slots, MI had their plans set going into the auctions. They made two major buys – Chris Lynn as the explosive top-order batsman and Nathan Coulter-Nile as the backup overseas pacer, both of whom can very well be in the first choice Mumbai Indians playing XI. Saurabh Tiwary was snapped at his base price of INR 50 lakhs, as a backup for the middle order. They buffed up the Indian pace department by roping in young pacers Mohsin Khan and Digvijay Deshmukh, before finally buying all-rounder Prince Balwant Rai.
Mumbai Indians probable playing XI:
Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock/Ishan Kishan, Chris Lynn, Suryakumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Dhawal Kulkarni/Nathan Coulter-Nile, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah
The skipper, who is a regular opener for India for more than six years now, finally agreed to open the innings for MI on a regular basis in 2019. Despite having a mediocre season by his standards, Rohit fared much better than he did in 2018. There is no reason why he should consider changing his slot this time around too. One of the most successful batsman in IPL, Rohit’s contributions at the top will once again be crucial in MI’s title defense.
Quinton de Kock
Trading in Quinton de Kock from RCB proved to be a masterstroke for MI in 2019 as the Proteas wicket-keeper had a fabulous season with the bat. With 529 runs at a strike rate of 132.91, de Kock was one of the top performers for MI last season. Rohit and de Kock are once again the most likely candidates to open the innings in the MI playing XI, despite someone as destructive as Chris Lynn being in the squad.
Chris Lynn/ Ishan Kishan
Chris Lynn has been in terrific form in last year’s Big Bash League and it will be difficult to leave him out of the MI playing XI. With Rohit and Quinton opening the innings, Lynn is best suited to bat at three. He is someone who can take advantage of the platform set by the top order right away while also giving the team the much-needed acceleration in case of a slow start by the openers.
However, if the management feels the need for an extra overseas pacer, one among Lynn and Quinton has to make way for young Ishan Kishan. Ishan had a terrific season in 2018 but did not get many chances in the 2019 season.
The Mumbai locale Suryakumar is in scintillating form in limited-overs tournaments in the domestic circuit. He has done exceedingly well for MI so far, with more than 400 runs each season batting at various slots from opening to number four or five. The flexibility he brings in, being able to bat anywhere in the batting order, makes him invaluable for the team. Suryakumar’s improvisation with the bat and his ability to play spin and pace equally well makes him an ideal candidate for number four.
The West Indian skipper had a terrible season in 2018, raising questions over his continuous selection in the MI playing XI. However, he was back to his best in the 2019 season, winning a handful of games with his bat; one of which was done single-handedly in a game he led the team. The constant for MI for almost a decade now, Pollard will be the mainstay for the middle order of the defending champions.
The elder of the Pandya brothers, often used as a floater depending on circumstances, will be tasked to do the finishing job along with Hardik. His left-arm orthodox has proved to be more than handy, even match-winning on a number of occasions including the 2017 finals. With a side not having much depth in the spin department, Krunal is a vital cog in the wheel, consistently providing at least 3 overs of spin.
Hardik is a much-improved striker of the ball now, having improved his ability to take the attack to the fast bowlers. His wrath on spinners was never hidden to the opposition teams, but the way he took the fast bowlers to the cleaners made him even more dangerous in 2019. He finished the 2019 season with a strike rate of 191.42 (second highest of the season) and aggregated more than 400 runs despite coming in lower down the order. Hardik’s bowling gives the team much-needed balance. Despite not being on the economical side, Hardik has been able to get wickets under his belt regularly.
The 20-year leg spinner from Rajasthan made his debut for MI in the 2019 season and made an impact straight away. His 13 wickets at an economy of made him the lead spinner for the defending champions. Being the lone wrist spinner in the current squad, Rahul will have the role of being the attacking spinner in the middle overs.
Dhawal Kulkarni/ Nathan Coulter-Nile
Mumbai Indians traded in Dhawal Kulkarni from Rajasthan Royals during the transfer window. The Mumbai pacer has a decent record in the IPL, especially with the new ball. Known for giving early breakthroughs with his swinging ability, Dhawal will be excited to bowl at his home ground on a pitch he has known throughout his life. The experienced campaigner was a strategic trade by MI, considering the lack of Indian pacers in the squad barring Bumrah.
However, if they decide to add an extra overseas pacer in place of Lynn or Quinton, Dhawal will have to make way for Coulter-Nile or Malinga. The costliest buy for MI in the recently concluded auctions, Coulter-Nile adds value to the side not only with his knack of picking wickets and brilliant death bowling but also with his ability to use the long handle with the bat.
The Kiwi speedster did not have much success with the Delhi Capitals. Despite being good with the new ball, he leaked runs at the death. Being the most experienced left-arm pacer and the form he is in, Boult walks into the XI as the first choice overseas pacer. Trading him in from DC has made the MI fast bowling lineup one of the strongest in the tournament.
Unarguably one of the best bowlers in the world right now, Jasprit Bumrah gives MI the extra edge in crunch situations over other teams. Thanks to his wicket-taking ability, teams are now looking to just play out his overs without conceding wickets. This in turn helps other bowlers in the side get amongst wickets as the opposition looks to attack them. However, Bumrah has suffered recurring injuries, which leads to a situation where MI might need to handle him carefully by managing his workload.
Overall, the Mumbai Indians have the most balanced playing XI, thanks to the depth the Pandya brothers bring in. Their fast bowling looks the strongest among all teams and the experienced batting lineup is as formidable yet menacing as any. MI definitely start as favourites and it will not be a surprise if they lift their fifth IPL title.