In 2010, Pakistan had to begin its World T20 title defence a little over 10 months after lifting the coveted trophy in June 2009. Cut to 2021, and Mumbai Indians will be back on the field as defending champion less than six months after Rohit Sharma earned a record fifth Indian Premier League (IPL) title for the franchise last November.
And just like a better part of the last decade, Hitman’s hurricanes will yet again enter as red-hot favourites to become the first IPL franchise to register a hat-trick of IPL titles on May 30. Since 2013, the team has never failed to be crowned champion in an odd year and it would literally be odd if MI doesn’t keep the record.
After all, MI for the last couple of years has been by a distance the most settled, the most prepared and the most confident team in the IPL bandwagon. In fact, except for fitness issues to more than a couple of key players, the team would be in a position to field an XI full of players with international cricket experience right through the tournament. It is often said that MI’s first-choice XI will be hard to beat even for an international T20 side of repute. It just stamps the fact that the team has all the bases covered. Not only does it reflect in the strong preferred XI but also with a battery of back-ups it has.
For instance, if Quinton de Kock breaks down at the top or misses the last fortnight due to his international commitments, Chris Lynn — who couldn’t get a game throughout the last season — is a potent opener and Ishan Kishan can keep wickets. Even if Ishan breaks down, Aditya Tare — the Man of the Match of Mumbai’s triumphant Vijay Hazare Trophy campaign — can don the gloves and be a potent batsman.
Similarly, Kieron Pollard has a readymade back-up in James Neesham and Marco Jansen, both newbies to MI family this time around; Krunal Pandya has Anukul Roy as back-up; veteran leggie Piyush Chawla has been brought in as a back-up-cum-mentor for young Rahul Chahar; and in-form Dhawal Kulkarni would continue to be waiting in the wings unless Jasprit Bumrah requires a break.
In order to shed the tag of a slow starter, MI management has been stressing on a prolonged preparatory camp ahead of the IPL. If the domestic cricketers training together for well over a month at the Jio Stadium in Navi Mumbai before departing for the United Arab Emirates was enough to ensure MI didn’t suffer any post-lockdown syndrome in IPL 2020, it’s been a similar case this time around as well.
Almost all the domestic cricketers have been slogging it out in the MI bubble for almost a month before the team officially entered the IPL bio-bubble. No doubt the team will miss the vibe of its den, the Wankhede Stadium, with no team set to feature at its designated base this season. Still with virtually all the bases covered, it would take a huge effort for any other franchise to deprive MI of extending its title run.
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