There are only five days to go until the start of the new IPL season. The first match is between the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings (taking place in Mumbai on Saturday). This is set to be a very interesting match, as there are lots of unknown variables at the moment. It is unclear how both teams will line-up, due to the complete overhaul of the prior squads that took place in the auction. Moreover, the return of the Chennai Super Kings as a franchise adds another unpredictable element. However, in anticipation of this mouth-watering clash, I am going to try to predict the Mumbai Indians starting XI.
1. Ishan Kishan (WK)
The Mumbai Indians only have two regular openers in their squad, bearing in mind that captain Rohit Sharma prefers to bat in the middle order in the IPL. This paves the way for Ishan Kishan, who is just 19 years old, to open the batting for his franchise. Kishan is a hard-hitting left-handed batsman and he is in superb domestic form. He has hit four scores of fifty plus (including a century) in his last six List A matches, playing for India A and Jharkhand. As well as providing an attacking opening option, Kishan is also a very talented wicketkeeper and will almost certainly be keeping for MI this season.
2. Evin Lewis
Powerful West Indian Evin Lewis is the only other frontline opener in the Mumbai Indians squad. Lewis has two T20I hundreds and two T20I fifties in his 14-match international career so far. He is averaging an impressive 36 and his strike rate is a phenomenal 155. There are not many players in the world who can boast such destructive figures. If Lewis fires for Mumbai, he could be in contention for winning the orange cap. This pairing of Kishan and Lewis will be a joy to watch.
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3. JP Duminy
South African star JP Duminy could take the number three slot for the Mumbai Indians on Saturday. Duminy, who is not involved in Australia’s Test tour of South Africa, looked in good touch during the Pakistan Super League. He hit scores of 54, 73* and 43* during his tenure with Islamabad United. Moreover, his international experience makes him the prime contender for this spot, since if an early wicket falls, Mumbai can rely on Duminy to steady the ship and rebuild.
4. Rohit Sharma (C)
Although he usually opens for India, Rohit Sharma prefers to bat at four for the Mumbai Indians. He is the captain of this side and has already taken Mumbai to three IPL titles, the most out of any team. It would be an understatement to say that Rohit is a dangerous batsmen, his three ODI double hundreds show that he is one of the most powerful batsmen in the history of the game. Sharma had a very strong Nidahas Trophy and looked like the best opener in the competition. Mumbai will be hoping that he carries this form into their IPL campaign.
5. Suryakumar Yadav
Indian middle-order batsman Suryakumar Yadav made his name with the Kolkata Knight Riders, but will be playing for the men in blue this season. Yadav has a relatively strong IPL record, averaging over 20 at a strike rate of over 130. Last year, though, he had a tough time as he only managed 105 runs in ten matches at an average of just 17.50. Nevertheless, he is in fairly strong domestic form, hitting a superb unbeaten hundred against Madhya Pradesh a few months ago. Mumbai’s middle order is looking very strong with Yadav at five.
6. Hardik Pandya
Fan-favourite Hardik Pandya is set to take the number six role for the Mumbai Indians. However, depending on the circumstances, he could be promoted up the order to inject some momentum into Mumbai’s innings. Pandya has rapidly established himself as a crucial part of India’s international side, across all three formats. His valiant performance in the Champions Trophy final showed his capability with the bat, also seen in his superb counter-attacking 93 in the Test at Cape Town. He was particularly destructive with the bat in last year’s IPL, smashing 250 runs at an average of over 35 and at a strike rate of over 155. Moreover, his fast bowling has now become so good that it is likely he will consistently bowl out his four overs. There is a chance he could even open the bowling for Mumbai.
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7. Kieron Pollard
West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard is playing for Mumbai once again this season. Pollard is probably the most experienced player in the Mumbai squad, having played in over 400 T20 matches around the world. He was most recently playing for the Multan Sultans in the Pakistan Super League, where he was rather inconsistent. Pollard picked up wickets frequently and also contributed well with the bat, his tournament ending with a breathtaking 73 (47). You can never rule Kieron Pollard out and he is a genuine match-winner, so he is almost guaranteed to start for Mumbai.
8. Krunal Pandya
Krunal Pandya, the brother of Hardik, is another player guaranteed to start (providing he is injury-free). He initially made his name in the 2016 IPL, where he scored 237 runs for Mumbai at an average of close to 40 and with a sublime strike rate of 191. It is hard to think of any other player capable of having a strike rate that high, and, like his brother, could be promoted up the order depending on the match situation. Also, Krunal is equally potent with the ball. He bowled 40 overs for Mumbai last year and took 10 wickets at an economy of just 6.82. He is one of the best Indian all-rounders in the competition for sure.
9. Rahul Chahar
Indian off-spinner Rahul Chahar could start for Mumbai. This franchise admittedly does not have that many spin options, meaning that the 18 year-old could get a long run in the side. Chahar is a very economical bowler and, while he may not always take wickets, he will always maintain pressure. He has played seven T20s domestically and has taken eight wickets with an economy of sub-seven. There are not many other quality spin options open to Mumbai, but if things go badly for Chahar they could always shuffle their team around and bring in Sri Lankan spinner Akila Dananjaya.
10. Mustafizur Rahman
The final overseas player in this line-up is Mustafizur Rahman. The Bangladeshi left-arm seamer has proven that he is a quality death bowler, with a lethal slower ball and accurate yorker. His IPL campaign in 2016 was excellent, as he took 17 wickets at an economy of just 6.90 and was a key player for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, this season he will be wearing a blue shirt and will be tasked with keeping his nerve at the end of the innings, as well as providing some early strikes in the powerplay.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
India’s Jasprit Bumrah is currently the world’s number one ODI bowler, which pays fitting tribute to his talent. He is probably the world’s best death bowler, capable of executing perfect yorkers on a regular basis. Bumrah, who actually first rose to fame in the IPL because of his unorthodox bowling action, has now even played Test matches for India and played well for them in South Africa. Bumrah and Rahman constitute a lethal fast-bowling duo that could terrorise any batting line-up.
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