IPL preview - Mumbai Indians
The five-time winners will be hoping for a better season than last time out, where they finished fifth and thus failed to make the play-offs, for just the second time since 2009. What will be most disappointing for MI about last season was that they didn’t even have a particularly weak squad either, in fact it was one of the strongest and I believe they were favourites with the book makers coming into the season. For whatever reason, things didn’t click and basically their entire XI performed worse than expected.
Despite having big name owners, who seemingly liked to be very involved with what’s going on, MI generally haven’t been a franchise that’s panicked when things have gone wrong. As a result, it isn’t surprising that we’re seeing the same captain/coach combo of Rohit Sharma and Mahela Jayawardene once again. Rohit has been with Mumbai for over ten seasons now, while Jaywardene is thought to be one of the better t20 coaches - he has overseen three title wins in five seasons as head coach of MI and was also victorious in the inaugural Hundred competition last year.
One of the main topics of discussion heading into the mega auction, and indeed as soon as they won back to back titles in 2019 & 20 was the need to break up what many referred to as the ‘MI dynasty’. Many feared that Mumbai had built a team so strong that it would lead to an uncompetitive IPL in the years to come if the squad wasn’t broken up. Of course, with t20 cricket being t20 cricket, in 2021 this ‘dynasty’ couldn’t even make the play offs. That’s not a dig towards MI by any means, it’s just a further example of how difficult it is to consistently dominate in t20’s, even if you have what’s perceived to be a high-quality squad & Mumbai certainly had that.
Mumbai’s success in terms of recruitment and on the field, has made their squad-building task much more difficult than it is for other teams. Any player that MI bid for tends to have their price artificially inflated to prevent them getting cheaper players, of course, this happens for all teams but I’d say most teams keep a closer eye on what MI are doing than the rest.
Retained players: Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Suryakumar Yadav & Kieron Pollard.
There wasn’t really any surprises here, retaining Rohit at 16cr isn’t something I would’ve done but it always felt like it was going to happen. Personally, I think Bumrah deserved the 16cr retention spot, though that’ll probably only happen once Rohit leaves/retires.
- Jorfa Archer - Recovering from an injury, unavailable for the entire tournament.
- Suryakumar Yadav - Still recovering from a hand injury he sustained in the t20 series last month, likely to miss at least the season opener for MI.
The Jofra Archer news is well-document and MI would’ve known about it well in advance of them buying him, however, Surya missing games would be a big blow, even if it’s only one match, as the quality of their local backup batters looks to be leaving a lot to be desired.
Mumbai’s approach to the auction was very interesting and clearly with a view to the future. After retaining the four players name above, they had 48cr left in their purse, of which they spent over 30cr on three players; Ishan Kishan, Tim David & Jofra Archer. The standout name here is obviously Jofra Archer, who Mumbai purchased for 8cr, despite the fact he’ll miss the entire season through injury. The fact that MI were willing to spend that much on him, even with his recent injuries show how highly he’s valued by IPL teams.
In the end, it became fairly obvious that MI’s plan was to go all in on Archer. Fortunately by the time his player lot came around, most other teams had spent a far greater % of their purse than Mumbai and there was nothing anyone could do to stop them getting him. Whether the strategy was purely-focused on Archer I’m not so sure, it seemed like a general ploy from them to target players that came later in the auction, possibly to reduce their chances of paying inflated prices. They only purchased five players on day one and it’s plausible to suggest that one, maybe two of them will make their first choice XI this season, where has other teams generally tried to get first XI players purchased earlier on in the auction. It was high-risk strategy from MI but i think if you asked them how their auction went, they’d be fairly happy if they were looking at it from a long-term view.
Like DC, Mumbai had the majority of their core from recent seasons ripped apart. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising and even if MI wanted to buy any of their previous players back, they were going to have to do so at inflated places. All in all they lost five of their regular starting XI from previous seasons; Quinton de Kock, Pandya brothers, Rahul Chahar and Trent Boult. Ability-wise Hardik Pandya will be the biggest loss, even if he didn’t have a great season last year, MI did well to lessen the impact of that loss by recruiting Tim David, ensuring they aren’t completely reliant on Pollard for the middle/later overs.
When at full-strength, MI have plenty of different combinations they can go with. If we start with the players that are guaranteed to make the XI:
I believe there are 8 players who would be considered ‘locks’, some may question the inclusion of Mills in this but I think having coached him in The Hundred for Southern Brave, Mahela clearly likes the look of him and he’s all but certain to be involved in my opinion. Even if all 8 of these players are considered to be locks, the roles of them are less certain, particularly 3–6. For me, given the strength they’ve already got at 5 & 6 with Pollard & David, I’d probably go with SKY at 3, ahead of Tilak Varma, just to give them that a little more assertiveness at the top of the order and to utilise SKY’ powerplay acceleration. Number four would be the more difficult position to bat in most teams set up, so there is certainly an argument to be made for batting him in that position, overall, I just think it’s a better fit if he bats at 3, which is where a lot of his IPL success has come. MI will be flexible with it and could just decide it based on which one of the openers is dismissed, to keep the LH/RH combination going.
For the final three spots in the side, it looks like they need two spin options and one pace option, with one overseas slot left. The options that would be considered for these roles would be Sanjay Yadav, Murugan Ashwin, Mayank Markande, Basil Thampi and Jaydev Undakat at the domestic players and Fabian Allen, Daniel Sams and Riley Meredith as the overseas players. One of the leg spinners is pretty much nailed on to play, meaning only two spots are left to be filled:
It’s important to understand what’s required from these final two spots, beyond just the type of bowlers that are needed. If we look at the current 9–11, we can see two pace options and a leg spinner, with limited batting ability from any of those. Likewise, the top six has limited bowling options, although Pollard certainly fancies himself as a bowler and Varma/David can offer so part-time spin but there’s no one that you could reliably depend on for 12 balls an innings. In addition to that, if we consider the profiles of the two pace bowlers (Bumrah and Mills), Bumrah is a genuine mutli-phase bowler (ideally 2–1–1 or (2–0–2), while Mills is more death overs orientated (ideally 1–1–2, 1–2–1 or 0–2–2). Overall, I think it’s fair to assume added batting depth is definitely required and a more powerplay-focused bowler would ideal. Based on this, I made a simple grid, to suggest what the best pairings could be:
This leaves Allen & Unadkat and Sams & Sanjay Yadav as the most likely duo’s. I should say that neither of these options are perfect quality for IPL level but I feel they give the best balance to the team. Sams & Sanjay Yadav would be my preferred choice as both of these players can bat and Sams gives them that powerplay option, while Sanjay Yadav looks to be a decent enough SLA bowler. However, there isn’t much to split the two options, Sams-Undakat could also be considered, if MI are willing to sacrifice the requirement of a second spinner.
In terms of a replacement for Suryakumar Yadav for any games he might miss, Anmolpreet Singh would probably be most likely to replace him, though his t20 numbers are underwhelming.
Death overs hitting - MI have typically been strong in this area over the last few seasons and I expect things to be no different this time around. They’ve replaced Hardik Pandya with David, which was about as well as they could’ve done in terms of quality. They’ve also got a more reliable ‘number 7’ this year, whether that’s Daniel Sams or Fabian Allen, both have more hitting ability than Krunal Pandya.
Pace attack - Obviously it’ll be even stronger next season if Archer gets anywhere near the level he has shown previously. However, I don’t think a potential pace trio of Bumrah, Mills and Sams is too bad this season either, relative to what some other teams have. It’s not a strong as some teams (RCB for example) but it’s pretty good. Bumrah is Bumrah, Mills should do well if he doesn’t overuse his slower balls and Sams can play a role in the powerplay.
The pace bowlers they have are also some of the best when it comes to limiting boundaries:
Unsurprisingly Bumrah is near the top, a remarkable effort given the overs he generally bowls and Mills/Archer are up there among the best, while Sams also ranks surprisingly well, though have my doubts over how similar those numbers will be in the IPL. None of these players have played in lower-scoring competitions like BPL/CPL since 2019 either, making their numbers even more impressive.
Well-equipped to deal with spin - With the LH/RH combinations in the top order, which should help negotiate any weaknesses those players have i.e Kishan against off spin plus ‘finishers’ that are capable players of spin, MI should be relatively secure and one of the faster scoring sides against spin this season.
Overseas bargains - MI recruited their overseas players really well this season in my opinion. Notably Mills, Meredith and Allen for a combined total of less than 3.5cr is excellent value. It leaves them with better quality overseas backups than quite a few teams.
Spin duo - It looks like MI have accepted that their spin bowling isn’t going to be one of their strengths this season. With a likely duo of Sanjay Yadav & Ashwin/Markande, it certainly looks like one of the weakest, if not the weakest spin duo’s in the tournament. MI will be hoping pitches stay true throughout the tournament.
Domestic backups - This is mainly centred around the batting department and I touched on this earlier but they really don’t have any sort of established names even at domestic level. Their go-to domestic back up in previous seasons - Saurabh Tiwary might have been a useful addition again. Failing that, there were a few other decent options that went unsold like Rajat Patidar, Virat Singh & Ricky Bhui, I’m not sure what stopped MI from buying one of these guys.
Pressure on openers to deliver - Not exactly a weakness but MI have spent big on their opening duo of Rohit and Kishan - 31.25cr on total, I believe the next highest is Lucknow with KL Rahul & QDK - 23.75cr. Rohit & Kishan will need to be really good to justify the sacrifices MI have to make in other areas, in order to get these two. Rohit, in particular needs to step up from his IPL slump.
Rohit Sharma - His IPL stats have been fairly average in recent seasons. In each of the last three seasons he has failed to strike above 130, which is hardly indicative of a 16cr player. In the same timeframe his numbers for India have remained positive (SR 142) but until he can translate those performances, or at least of a similar level to IPL seasons again, I won’t be fully happy with his retention in the highest slot. Probably a slightly better player of pace but doesn’t look to have any overwhelming strengths or weaknesses in t20’s at the moment. Neutral.
Ishan Kishan - Looks set to open in this years tournament. A position that’s been very successful for him in recent years:
It’s clearly a position he feels more comfortable in, his overall numbers are so much better when he opens. MI should really give him the full season in this role, which isn’t something that’s happened for Kishan in the IPL yet; only 6 of his 29 innings’ across the last three IPL seasons have come as an opener. You’d suggest, based on the price they were willing to pay for him at auction, that Mumbai are also thinking along a similar line. Hopefully, the move to open with Kishan will eliminate some of his slow starts, his first 10 balls strike rate in the last three seasons has been 103, which would be considered surprisingly slow by many. Also struggles to score against off spin, with a strike rate of under 90.
Suryakumar Yadav - One of my favourite players, plays proactively and scores in some funky areas, particularly strong behind square on the leg side and over cover/extra cover. He is one of the most fluent players at the start of his innings and I often joke you can judge the quality of a cricket pitch, by how quickly Surya starts his innings; if he struggles, it’s likely a bad wicket:
As you can see he is one of the better starters to his innings in the IPL, the majority of players that better him are either ‘finishers’ or openers, considering his role, his numbers are definitely impressive. In fact, they would have been even better, had he not a had a poor tournament by his standards last season. Across the 2019 & 2020 IPL seasons, his first 10 balls average & strike rate was 52 and 135 respectively - starting quickly but also reliably. For someone who probably isn’t the most powerful of players, his acceleration later in his innings is excellent, from overs 12–20 his strike rate is over 165. Perhaps the only weakness he has is against SLA (Av 30, SR 104). Overall, it’s very difficult to argue with this retention.
Tilak Varma - Looks to be a promising player, with an average in the late 20’s and strike rate of 138 in his SMA matches so far. Promising stats considering he is only 19 years of age. Almost all of those innings have come while batting at 3, batting at 4 (where I’d put him) would present a different challenge but with the quality around him there won’t be significant pressure on him to perform. I expect he’ll get a good run of games. Can also bowl some part-time spin.
Kieron Pollard - There’s no doubting that Pollard has looked to be in a bit of a slump of late with the bat. His performances in recent months in white ball cricket for West Indies haven’t been particularly encouraging either. I doubt MI or Pollard will be panicking but it’s just a little strange considering how good he had been in the previous 2–3 years. He doesn’t seem to be trusting his game against spin as much anymore:
This is sort of backed up by the numbers, 2021 & onwards has been his lowest average & scoring rate against spin over the last five years. In particular he seems to be struggling against leg spin; 50 runs from 73 balls, with five dismissals. A small sample size but numbers that bad are worth mentioning, considering how well he did against leg spin in the previous two years (average 42, SR 166). Tends to be a very reliable starter, with an average of just above 50 in his first 10 balls in t20’s since 2019. I’d hope he still backs his game against spin and isn’t put off by one bad patch after years of good work. Should bat at 5.
Tim David - It’s been a big rise for Tim David, even though his numbers have been promising for a while, I’m not sure anyone expected him to adapt so seamlessly to higher-level competitions. Firstly the PSL, where has scored 407 runs at an average of 37 and strike rate of 175 across the last two seasons. His numbers were more impressive than most:
In addition to his superior strike rate, he also hit sixes more regularly than most, only Asif Ali (of players that faced at least 200 balls) cleared the ropes with a greater frequency. The next test for David, is the IPL, which he had a very brief taste of last season for RCB. His game against spin, combined with his pace-hitting ability should allow him to succeed in any franchise competition, though his overall numbers against spin are slightly inflated by the games he played for Singapore, they’re still very good - average of 43 and SR of 137 in franchise cricket since 2019. He also had a good tournament in the CPL on horrible pitches, which I guess would be the litmus test of a players ability against spin.
Daniel Sams - Predominantly a powerplay bowler that will look for swing early on, his numbers in this phase are decent, without being outstanding (ER 7.32 & SR 25). His death over stats are actually better than expected, though I don’t think that will be scaleable to IPL level. Won’t always be the easiest bowler to get four overs out of, I expect opposition teams will look to target him, 2–1–1 would probably be his best role. Has been in great touch with the bat of late, striking at almost 170 since the start of 2021 and is capable of hitting massive sixes.
Sanjay Yadav - There are plenty of options that can bowl SLA & bat a bit in Indian domestic cricket, so the fact that MI decided to go with Sanjay Yadav, who was one of the more low-key names, suggests they’ve scouted him extensively. His batting numbers aren’t amazing but he’s capable of cameo’s and he has been excellent with the ball over the last two SMA seasons; only going at 5.03 rpo. This is obviously helped by playing on pitches that assist spinners, nevertheless, still impressive numbers. They’ll probably use him in a similar role to Krunal Pandya with the bat; a middle-order anchor if needed, if not, he’ll likely drop below Sams and bat at 8.
Murugan Ashwin - I think on the basis of experience, he’ll probably get the nod over Markande initially but there isn’t much to split the two. Ashwin’s numbers have been fairly weak at IPL level; economy of 7.66 rpo and SR of 26 in the last four IPL seasons. However, it felt like a trade off MI were willing to take, acknowledging they were never likely to get a quality domestic spinner, with the auction strategy they had. Data suggests this is a brave decision but will it pay off?
Tymal Mills - His success if often quick to be dismissed due to a lot of his games being played in the t20 blast. However, as he has started to gain more a reputation globally (again), the relevance of this is dwindling:
His numbers in the Blast aren’t really any different to his numbers in other competitions. He had an excellent tournament in the Hundred and followed that up with a BBL campaign, where he looked too good for the majority of players in that competition. He was also one of the standout bowlers in the most recent t10 season. His death overs bowling quality is obvious:
Mills has the lowest economy rate and second lowest boundary percentage of players that have bowled at least 200 balls in this phase since 2019. I also highlighted where Bumrah and Archer were on this graph, to showcase how MI could have an embarrassment of riches in this regard next season.
It is worth noting that Mills has struggled upon his return to international cricket, he’s going at over 9rpo in the seven matches he has player so far. Although he was having a decent t20 World Cup, until he suffered an injury, he was going at 8rpo and had taken 7 wickets in less than 14 overs up until that point. His series against West Indies was poor but that was only three games, so I don’t think it’s worth being too reactionary over. In terms of usage, I’d probably give him one in the powerplay (5/6th over), one through the middle and two at the death.
Jasprit Bumrah - A difference maker, perhaps the most versatile bowler in t20’s and across all formats. Whether that’s through his pace variations, his control of a new ball or his near-perfect yorker execution, you can basically give him the ball in any situation and he’ll do a good job for the team. His multi-phase ability at IPL has been far more consistent that anyone else:
Only Nortje has managed to rival him and his numbers will be slightly inflated due to only playing the previous two IPL tournaments, where run rates have been lower. Bumrah is also far quicker than most give him credit for, perhaps because he finds more of a ‘cruising speed’ to maximise efficiency in other formats but his stock ball is almost 140 in t20’s and that’s quicker than most.
Fabian Allen - Considering his skillset, this looks like a relative bargain and I don’t even rate Allen as highly as some. Based on the prices teams were willing to pay for a pace bowler that offers a bit of hitting ability, getting the spin equivalent for 0.75cr is great business. His batting is impactful, with a death overs strike rate of almost 200, the issue with Allen is his bowling… I don’t think it’s as reliable as some think. His economy of 7.94rpo since 2019 is fairly average as it is but considering a lot of these games have taken place in the Caribbean, it just isn’t that impressive. Outside of the Caribbean that figure jumps to almost 9.5 rpo, though the sample size is fairly small, it’s for this reason that I don’t see him making the side initially.
Riley Meredith - Genuine pace bowler, at this stage probably best suited to more of an enforcer-type role. Was purchased for big money ahead of last season but had a tough time of it for Punjab Kings; going at 10rpo in the five matches he played. Some would have already written him off as a failure at IPL level, which I think is extremely harsh, the games he played in last season were generally high-scoring ones. In the five matches he played non-spin bowlers went at over 9rpo anyway, his returns were disappointing but he wasn’t the only player that struggled in that period.
Dewald Brevis - Definitely a project for the future and a fairly expensive one at that. Other u19 players will be envious of the 3cr that Brevis has managed to pocket, based on an impressive u19 WC tournament, where he scored 506 runs in six innings and also took seven wickets. The hype around him had already begun pre-tournament, with commentators referring to him as ‘baby AB’, such hype meant it was always likely to get an IPL deal providing he put in at least one noteworthy performance. As it happened, he put in a lot more than one and MI spent big to get him. I don’t think he’ll have much of an impact this season, he might play a couple of games later in the season, if results are less important. He’d probably struggle against the quality of spin if he was thrown into the IPL immediately.
Jofra Archer - His powerplay value alone, is enough to justify spending that amount but with Jofra you also get above average death overs bowling and lower-order hitting ability. MI and cricket fans in general, should be hoping that Archer can re-discover his fitness and get back to the level he once was, when on-song he is one of the most exciting white ball players in the world. I’ve definitely used this graph in other articles before but it definitely highlights how good Jofra was in the IPL from 2018–20:
His 2020 powerplay performance was absurdly good and I doubt we’ll ever see another season like that, with a reasonable sample size. Like Bumrah, he is also very quick, with an average speed just shy of 140kmph, though his stock ball is almost 143 and two thirds of his delivieries are above 140. Hopefully, he hasn’t lost any of that effortless speed with his injury issues.
Jaydev Unadkat - Reliable performer in domestic cricket but has struggled at IPL level, since he made that big money move to Rajasthan a few years back. Still a decent powerplay option, though he is limited beyond that, somehow goes at 13rpo at the death in recent years, with a decent sample size.
Basil Thampi - When MI signed him, there were rumours he had improved, his SMA numbers don’t necessarily back that up, with an economy of 8.76 and SR of 22 across the last three seasons. This wouldn’t rank him favourably in comparison to most players that have received an IPL deal. He seems to have been picked on the basis that he can reach decent enough ball speeds. If he plays, I expect him to be used as an enforcer.
Mayank Markande - Markande will return to Mumbai, the franchise where he started his IPL career. He took 15 wickets for them in his debut season in 2018 (was slightly expensive), since then, things haven’t exactly gone to plan and he has only played four games in the last three seasons. His domestic numbers have been good (ER 6.46, SR 20) for Punjab but I expect he’ll start on the bench this season. It’ll be interesting to see if his speeds have increased, it feels like spin bowling has moved on slightly since he last played regularly in the IPL (four seasons ago), with an emphasis on bowling faster. Markande’s average speed was around 82kmph and I expect that will count against him if he hasn’t worked on that.
Player stats sheet:
To summarise, MI have clearly looked to the future with their squad planning at the most recent auction and they aren’t focusing on immediate results. Obviously they’d like to win the tournament this year, like any team would but I doubt there will be any signs of panic/outrage if they don’t.
The squad they’ve built looks relatively thin, lacking in quality back ups, especially from a domestic point of view. However, the actual XI itself looks relatively solid. A lot of their success this season will depend on how the pace duo of Sams and Mills can adapt to the IPL. If Mills has the death overs on lock, it will place less pressure on Bumrah and they’ll also be able to front load him in certain situations. The batting looks good, though like I already said, any injuries to their first choice players and they look like they’ll be struggling.
Overall, I think MI are in a similar position to their main rivals - CSK, I’m expecting them to finish around the 4th place mark, though they could push further if Sams/Mills adapt better than expected. I’m not sure they’re worthy of their current tag as favourites with bookmakers. The spin attack isn’t strong enough to justify that.
Thanks for reading!