IPL 2021: Mumbai Indians have the potential to go where no other IPL team has before
- IPL 2020 was probably the most one-sided affair, with MI first topping the points-table before going on to win the title, almost a replica of Chennai Super Kings' campaign in 2011.
It's an unfair comparison, but at the current rate, Mumbai Indians are soon on the fast track to becoming the cricketing equivalent of Premier League giant Manchester United. Easily the most successful team in franchise cricket, the five-time, yes, five-time IPL champions are appearing more formidable and if we may use the word, unbeatable, with each season. IPL 2020 was probably the most one-sided affair, with MI first topping the points-table before going on to win the title, almost a replica of Chennai Super Kings' campaign in 2011. Last year, they broke the odd-even pattern and this year, will be looking to do what no other IPL team has done before, win a hat-trick of titles.
For years now, MI's strength has lied in their core. The proven performers – the likes of Rohit Sharma at the top, big-hitters Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya in the middle order and Jasprit Bumrah at the top. If that isn't intimidating enough, add the likes of Quinton de Kock, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and Trent Boult. Opposition, beware. Furthermore, each one of those players enters the IPL 2021 on the back of splendid T20 form – Pollard having recently hit six sixes against Sri Lanka, Suryakumar and Ishan enjoying successful limited-overs leg against England. Bumrah is the only big match player who may be lacking match practice but, in a tournament, as long as the IPL, it's never a bad time to get some quality game time.
There isn't much scope of weakness for a time that's won the IPL five times – twice in a row in 2019 and 2020. But if one is to nitpick, it would be the uncertainty regarding those who are benches. Year in and year out, with the MI XI almost picking itself, plenty of players are benches. Chris Lynn, Dhawal Kulkarni, Anmolpreet Singh, Saurabh Tiwary from last year and newest recruits Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Milne, James Neesham, Piyush Chawla, Arjun Tendulkar this season. Another area MI need to be cautious about is their start. Although it wasn't a concern last year, MI have had the tendency to lose a lot of matches in the first half of the tournament, which forces them to play catch-up in the other. They'd want to avoid that banana peel.
The biggest opportunity MI have this year is to create history – by becoming the first team in the IPL to win three consecutive seasons. Besides, MI would want to hand out opportunities to players like Neesham, Milne and Tendulkar jr. The formidable MI have all bases covered; all that's left now is execution. Personally, IPL 2021 will provide an idea of Hardik's role and whether is fit enough to bowl four overs, especially having not bowled a single over last year.
We saw it with CSK last year. There comes a time where even your best players, the match-winners over the last so many years – are unable to perform. Like CSK, MI's base has remained the same over the years, and although the guys are a lot younger and quicker than CSK's ageing side from last season, MI need to keep back-ups ready in case the big guns don't fire.
MI IPL 2021 Squad: Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock (WK), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan (WK), Chris Lynn, Anmolpreet Singh, Saurabh Tiwary, Aditya Tare, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Anukul Roy, Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult, Rahul Chahar, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mohsin Khan, Nathan Coulter Nile, Adam Milne, Piyush Chawla, James Neesham, Yudhvir Charak, Marco Jansen, Arjun Tendulkar