Can Mumbai Indians overcome the MI’stakes?
Disappointed.. Infuriated.. These are not the words you usually associate with Mumbai Indians but having rooted for the franchise ever since its inception, I and many fans are truly disappointed.
Mumbai Indians are known for their enviable ecosystem with excellent scouting process and team construction. Their five championships in the Indian Premier League are a testament to just how well-run the franchise has been. It is a franchise where superstars are made. Hardik Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Jasprit Bumrah have gone on to achieve an elite status in world cricket.
But there comes a time (in every three years) when the franchises have to make tough calls. Three retentions for MI ahead of the 2022 mega auction were pretty obvious, with captain Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Kieron Pollard pretty much selecting themselves, although two of those are 34 years old. The fourth pick was the trickiest for the management and it is where they have messed up.
Mumbai Indians had three quality options in Hardik, Ishan and Suryakumar. First, an all-rounder and although he hasn’t bowled for the franchise for two years, he’s still the most bankable Indian finisher in the market. The second one, a 24 year old dynamic left hander who keeps the wickets. And the third, a calm composed player who is an outstanding top order batter.
While Suryakumar is a terrific player no doubt but picking him over two multi-dimensional guys was a huge blunder on MI’s part. As a result, they will be heading into the mega auction with plenty of ground to cover. Fortunately for them, other teams have made quite a few blunders themselves, making the released players pool a lot more exciting than expected. And although the two new teams will have a maximum of three draft picks, there’s enough quality left in the pool. Here we explore some of the possible options that Mumbai Indians can target in the mega auction.
Who are the Indian wicket-keeping alternatives?
Having an Indian wicketkeeper gives the team a greater space to maneuver the team construction. Mumbai Indians could have ticked three boxes with Ishan Kishan – an explosive opener, wicketkeeper, and a left-hander. And all of it for the next decade. Kishan had a breakthrough season in 2020, scoring 500 runs at a strike rate of 145. Either side of that season, he hasn’t really had a good relationship with the head coach Mahela Jayawardene, which might have played a role in retention.
MI can target Dinesh Karthik, a regular keeper who is a fantastic death overs batter. DK strikes at 178 in overs 17-20 at an average of over 20. Two part-time keeping options include Robin Uthappa and Ambati Rayudu, both of whom do not lack intent in the middle overs. While Uthappa has rediscovered himself, Rayudu has played an important role in the success of both MI and CSK in the last decade. Two other options include Anuj Rawat and Vishnu Vinod, who are untested at this level.
There are several overseas keepers in the market but very few are experienced and proven. Jonny Bairstow is obviously the biggest name and is versatile enough to open as well as bat in the middle order. But you can expect him to fetch a huge amount and could be out of Mumbai’s budget. In that case, Nicholas Pooran could be their prime target in this category. Pooran, who was first bought by MI in the 2017 auction, couldn’t get a game for the club but has gone on to build a reputation as an elite spin-hitter.
Mumbai Indians’ former player Quinton de Kock is also an option. Other overseas keeping options include Josh Inglis, Glenn Phillips, Joe Clarke, and Matthew Wade. However, getting a top wicket-keeper is not going to be easy with five to six teams fighting for the player type.
Who will be the overseas Pace Power-hitter
Mumbai Indians have had Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya pull off rescue act match after match for years. But the 2021 edition was an exception when the opponents consistently targeted the MI lower middle order with high-end pace. With Hardik’s exit, they will need someone to pair Pollard with, and the spot must go to a pace power-hitter.
Aiden Markram seems to be the most popular choice amongst fans. The South African has developed into a terrific T20 player in the last year and is one of the best players of pure pace. My personal favourite though is Liam Livingstone, who is a destructive striker of pace bowling and can be equally good against spinners. The England player has experience of playing in the leagues all over the world and has nearly 4000 T20 runs at an average of over 30 while striking at around 145. Livingstone, capable of bowling off-break and leg-break, also adds immense value with the ball in hand.
MI could also look for Ben Stokes, Marcus Stoinis, and Mitchell Marsh as seam bowling all-rounders will be handy at the home base Wankhede.
High time for a second Indian pacer
It is quite baffling that a successful team like Mumbai Indians hasn’t had a decent Indian pace backup for Jasprit Bumrah for years. In the famous words of @indianmourinho, MI has always been one injury away from seeing their season implode. And they have been incredibly lucky to have Bumrah fully fit for all the seasons. But it is time they rectify the issue, especially with some very good Indian pacers available in the auction pool.
Avesh Khan was impressive in the IPL 2021 and there could be a bidding war for the right arm quick. He picked 19 wickets for Delhi Capitals at just 7 runs per over. Indian internationals Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar will also be up for grabs. But if not Avesh, I would like MI to go for up-and-coming exciting quick Kartik Tyagi, who could be easily gettable within the budget.
Will they stick with the two-overseas-pacers strategy?
Mumbai Indians were the first team to deploy a two overseas pace strategy in the league and have tasted immense success on the back of it. Other teams are just catching up on it. If MI do not get a quality Indian option to support Bumrah, they will continue with this combination.
The mega auction will be flooded with quality overseas pace bowling options. Jofra Archer, Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins, Trent Boult, Mark Wood, Josh Hazlewood, Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris, and Mitchell Starc (maybe). Considering that MI have chased Morris in the auction for years, Cummins – someone who adds value with the bat – could be on their radar.
Can they rectify spin struggles?
Mumbai Indians’ association with Harbhajan Singh ended after the 2017 edition and since then they have constantly struggled with their spin department. They have had a very one-dimensional spin attack, pairing left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya with Mayank Markande in 2018 and Rahul Chahar from 2019-21. Basically an invitation to left-hand batters. They have struggled to contain the run flow in the middle overs and the mega auction offers them a chance to recruit a better spin attack.
Ravi Bishnoi and Ravichandran Ashwin are two excellent options, who can spin the ball both ways and trouble both right-handers as well as left-handers. MI would do well to secure one of these two.
For a franchise that is supposed to be the smartest in the competition, Mumbai Indians have been very underwhelming in recent auctions. Mahela and co. needs to be at the top of their game to come out of the mega auction with a strong squad.