A problem of plenty

Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma…players with proven credentials in the Mumbai Indians side.-R.V. MOORTHY

Mumbai Indians is perhaps the most watched team in the Indian Premier League (IPL). For such a team, a solitary victory (2011 Champions League T20) so far is too meagre a return. Runner-up once and semi-finalist twice, it has either been blown away by inspired performances (Dhoni’s 51 off 20 balls and Chris Gayle’s 47-ball 89 in the 2012 and 2011 playoffs) or self destructed through tactical mistakes like in the 2010 final.

Will the fortunes change this season? On paper, Mumbai Indians is arguably the best squad. Prior to the last year’s edition it was the team to beat and it will be this time too.

Indian players are always in demand in the IPL and those with proven credentials are much coveted. In Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma, Mumbai has two such players. Both had reasonably good tournaments last year (333 and 433 runs respectively) and will be expected to carry on the good work. Sachin Tendulkar will continue to be the key man and in Dinesh Karthik it has an accomplished batsman and one of the better wicketkeepers.

Add to this a bowling attack comprising Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel and R. P. Singh — four of the top six wicket-takers in the IPL so far — and the outfit resembles a well-rounded one.

However, the performance of Harbhajan Singh, the skipper in IPL-5, left a lot to be desired. He took only six wickets in 17 matches, while Ojha, with nine from nine matches, fared slightly better. For Mumbai the spin duo needs to contribute more.

However, for Mumbai Indians, it has always been a problem of whom to leave out. With just four overseas players allowed in the playing XI, the presence of the West Indian duo of Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard (16 wickets and 220 runs in IPL-5), Kiwis Jacob Oram and James Franklin in addition to Lasith Malinga — who is a certainty on the team sheet — will create problems aplenty.

At this year’s auction, Mumbai picked up former Aussie captain Ricky Ponting and made his compatriot and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell a million dollar man. Ponting — adjudged the Sheffield Shield Player of the Year recently — has since been made the captain and is another certainty.

So, the key lies in getting the permutations and combinations right and selections spot-on if coach John Wright and Co. are to add a second trophy to Mumbai’s kitty.

N. Sudarshan