Rohit Sharma: Can he he lead from the front again?
No other IPL team can surpass Mumbai Indians when it comes to fans support across the world. Mumbai Indians have not only handled to figure among the most stable and fearsome sides in the tournament but have also been known for the most high profile team with the presence of key players like master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Kieron Pollard till last season. Probably that is the only reason why MI has been able to top the charts of fan-following by drawing in record-breaking TV-viewership over the years (293 million viewers tuned in for MI matches in IPL 1).
Mumbai Indians is admired for dealing in big money and bigger names. In six years, they have fielded legends like Sanath Jayasuriya, Herschelle Gibbs and Shaun Pollock who’d otherwise traversed into the sunset, giving them the perfect exposure to prove that they still have power under the hood. With the Sachin-Punter combo firmly behind them, 2013 saw the team at its best as they lifted their first ever IPL trophy with the likes of Pollard, Maxwell and Malinga.
Victory gives birth to expectations and pressure to perform. If kissing the glory from the grief wounded initial years was tough, the job of staying there will be even more daunting. They will now have a target on their back as one of the prime competitors this season.
Winners of Champions League last year, Mumbai Indians have retained its five key players for this season — Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga and Ambati Rayudu, who played a pivotal role in their double success in the last edition of the tournament.
The formidable combination of these five players not only epitomizes the spirit of Mumbai Indians but also shapes its core. With the retention of these match-winners, Men in Blue have been able to build a stronger team with the promise of entertaining its ever-growing fans by their enthralling performance in the coming season.
Perfect blend of youth and experience is one of the major strengths of this side. When it comes to batting, the team has a solid line up with likes of Rohit Sharma, Mike Hussey, Corey Anderson and Pollard who can chase up huge totals at will. With a perfect balance in their squad, it contains quality Indian spinners like Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha which make it one of the most potent spin attacks in the tournament. If these two aren’t enough, the defending champions have Zaheer and Malinga in the forefront of pace attack to double the trouble for the opponents.
Big hitting West Indian Keiron Pollard brings lot of muscle power to the team. With his core skills of exploding with the bat anytime, he can significantly impact the run rate by spending mere 2-3 overs at the crease. In addition to his swashbuckling batting abilities, Pollard is also a clever bowler and a live rope on field which works as an icing on the cake for the Mumbai Indians.
Spin twins Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh play a major role in containing the run flow in the middle overs. A good IPL season for Harbhajan will lead him to don the Indian colors soon.
A consistent performer, Ambati Rayudu can hold one end while batting and he runs quickly between the wickets. The fortune of Mumbai Indians depends a lot on the quality play of its captain Rohit Sharma. Apart from providing stability in the batting orders, he also fastens a big chase. This season has an immense scope for him to prove his talent.
Mumbai Indians have struggled hard to find a stable opening partner to go with Sachin Tendulkar in the past. With the retirement of Sachin from all forms of the cricket and absence of Smith and Ponting this season, lefts with the only possibility of Hussey-Rayudu combo to open the innings for the Indians.
The all round talent of a number of players in the squad makes a team selection supple. At the time of dimming the lights at night, the Indians have one of the, if not the most, balanced teams in the tournament and it has been the leading factor to their triumph last year.
Moreover, the fact of Rohit Sharma captaining Harbhajan Singh, Mike Hussey and Kieron Pollard is more than enough to touch the new heights of excitement level. Crammed with match winners throughout the line-up, and coupled with some sturdy heads around the field, it makes Mumbai Indians one of the favourites.
Originally published on Sportskeeda.com here