Till not so long ago, April-May was synonymous with school holidays, extreme heat and mangoes. Over the last decade, the list has had an addition in the Indian Premier League with the evolution of the T20 extravaganza. A quintessential cricket-crazy Mumbaikar has latched on to the Mumbai Indians as swiftly as he or she gets used to the daily local train commute.
Over the last decade, the Mumbai Indians has reciprocated the warmth of the Mumbaikars by emerging as the most successful IPL outfit. After taking time to get off the blocks, the team has lifted the coveted trophy thrice in the last five seasons, including the last edition in 2017. As a result, when Mumbai Indians opens its title defence against Chennai Super Kings at the Wankhede Stadium on April 7, Rohit Sharma’s army would realise it would be hunting another piece of history over the following seven weeks.
Barring CSK, no other team has been able to defend its title. Retaining a trophy usually proves to be a bigger challenge than winning it for the first time. The IPL is no exception. The Mumbai Indians team itself has succumbed twice in its efforts in 2014 and 2016, after emerging IPL champion in 2013 and 2015. That title defence could be even more difficult this time around than the two previous attempts.
After all, the team — just like all other teams — has been through a revamp, thanks to the full player auction. However, MI is slightly better placed than many other teams, having been able to either retain or regain the services of the core unit that brought home the glory last year. Moreover, the fact that a majority of the new signings are actually returning to the MI camp after a hiatus also makes it an easier task for the team to gel in time for the tournament-opener.
Mahela Jayawardene, head coach
Rahul Chahar and Mayank (Markande), we were quite impressed with those two leg-spinners. I was not sure whether we would get both of them, but it worked out brilliantly.
With the fast bowlers, Pradeep (Sangwan) has the experience, so we thought we could bank on him. And we have backed two young Indian fast bowlers in Mohsin and Nidheesh. Nidheesh and Asif, the two boys from Kerala, bowled brilliantly in the trials. We went for the Asif, but were outbid, so we went for Nidheesh. Having those trials gives us an opportunity to have a closer look at players and their mindset and it helps. (Mahela was giving a sneak peek into the new domestic signings).
Player to watch
Having led India Under-19 in a World Cup earlier, Ishan Kishan is no stranger to limelight. The diminutive left-handed wicket-keeper-batsman is no stranger to the IPL glitz as well, having played a few cameos for the Gujarat Lions. But for the first time, the Jharkhand youngster will get a place in the starting line-up. And MI will be banking on him to get them off to a quick start.
Rohit Sharma (Capt), Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Mohsin Khan, Ishan Kishan, Siddhesh Lad, Evin Lewis, Sharad Lumba, Mayank Markande, M. D. Nidheesh, Anukul Roy, Pradeep Sangwan, Tajinder Singh, Aditya Tare, Saurabh Tiwary, Suryakumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting, Akila Dananjaya, JP Duminy, Mitchell McClenaghan and Mustafizur Rahman.