The 10th edition of the Indian Premier League is likely to go down as one of the worst-hit by injuries. Almost the cream of the India team has been sidelined, taking some sheen off the world’s most high-profile Twenty20 league.
Among those who will miss out for varying durations are Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Murali Vijay and Umesh Yadav. The respective franchises have built their teams around these key players, and while most of the teams have been hit by their absence, Mumbai Indians will be counting their stars that their talismanic captain, Rohit Sharma, is back to full fitness to spearhead their campaign.
INJURIES WON’T WEAKEN SIDES
Mumbai Indians’ new coach Mahela Jayawardene, however, doesn’t believe it will be to their advantage. “Yes, it is unfortunate a few (top) players are carrying a few injuries after a long season, and that happens. Mumbai went through that in the last couple of years, and that’s part of the whole equation.
“The unique thing about IPL is that you have a lot of back-ups. You have a lot of other quality players who are part of those franchises and it gives them an opportunity to come and perform. And all these players are coming with 100 per cent confidence to get that opportunity. I don’t think it is an advantage,” said the former Sri Lanka captain.
“What we need to do is to try and make sure we play the best cricket. This is a bit of a tough season because of the Champions Trophy. So there is going to be a lot of cricket in a very short time. So we need to manage all that as well. Make sure we handle those kind of situations better and ensure all our key players are on the park all the time,” he added.
SMITH FACTOR IN RPS
Mumbai start their campaign against Rising Pune Supergiant, a tough outing considering that they will be up against the most prolific batsman in the world, Steve Smith. Bowlers have looked for weakness against the Australia skipper, but in vain. With three hundreds in four Tests in these conditions against India, the Pune team skipper’s confidence will be sky high.
Asked about his strategy against the world’s top batsman, Jayawardene quipped: “get him out early” before warning that it will be a folly to focus only on Smith. “It’s not just going to be Smith but they have a quality batting line-up. You got Jinks (Ajinkya Rahane), MS (Dhoni), Faf (Du Plessis), (Ben) Stokes now.
“As a bowling group we got some very experienced players who have the talent, so we will find a few ways and means to do that. That is the challenge of the IPL, every team has that quality. We just need to trust our abilities and play to our strengths, and that is important.”
HANDING PRESSURE KEY
In a format where one over can change the complexion of the game, ultimately it will be nerves that the teams have to conquer. “The pressure factor is always going to be there, especially at the Wankhede when you have many people coming in. I remember the first few games I played here, it was an amazing atmosphere. Kolkata, Delhi, wherever you go, there will be that franchise loyalty which comes through. We realise how tough it is. That’s why I said earlier that is one of the reasons these younger players are learning much faster how to handle the pressure,” said Jayawardene.
“That is part and parcel of the game. That is an experience that everyone has. That is a unique tournament in that way and that is why it is right up there.”