MUMBAI, April 3:Mumbai Indians, the most talked about team in the Indian Premier League (IPL), gear up for the eighth edition of the cash-rich tourment as one of the favourites to clinch the title for the second time.
The 2013 champions are all set to take to the 22 yards under newly-appointed coach Ricky Ponting, whose aggression and experience would be a big plus to the squad.
Last year, led by hard-hitting Indian opener Rohit Sharma, the team reached the play-off stages where they lost to Cheni Super Kings (CSK) in the elimitor by 7 wickets.
But after the 2015 IPL auctions the team looks more formidable even before the start.
Among the notable buys were Australia's World Cup-winning opener Aaron Finch, who was bought for Rs.3.2crore. The Victorian, part of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL last season, has played 22 Twenty20 Intertiols for Australia and scored 756 runs.
New Zealand's Mitchell McCleghan is another crucial purchase. With his ability to pick up wickets, the left-arm pacer is considered a limited overs specialist, who has turned out in 16 Twenty20 Intertiols for his tiol side claiming 17 wickets. Mumbai Indians have done well to get him for Rs.30 lakh.
India's spinner Pragyan Ojha bowled with guile during the team’s triumphant run in 2013. In the February 16 auction he was roped in for Rs.50 lakh. During his seven-year IPL stint, the Odisha born has got 89 wickets in 91 matches.
The 2011 and 2013 Champions League T20 winners have retained bulk of the team they fielded last year and that allows for continuity. Leading from the front will be Rohit, who would be gunning to better his lacklustre show last year when he maged just 390 runs from 15 games.
The advantage the team had over the years is the pool of talented players, both Indians and overseas. The presence of Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar till the sixth IPL was a great boost for the side.
Apart from Rohit, young talent in the squad includes batsmen like Aditya Tare, Ambati Rayudu, Unmukt Chand and not to forget pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who bowls with a unique action.
As a player, Rayudu is yet to convince many experts, but as a talent his ability has been talked about in volumes over the years. The team has showed a lot of faith in the 29-year-old and it's to be seen if he can pay back rightly.
The experience of seasoned campaigners Harbhajan Singh, R. Viy Kumar, Parthiv Patel will hugely count in Indian soil.
Among the overseas players who were retained were New Zealand's all-rounder Corey Anderson, World Cup winning Australian pacer Josh Hazlewood, West Indies big-hitter Keiron Pollard, South Africa pacer Marchant de Lange, West Indies batsman Lendl Simmons, and last but not the least the highest wicket taker in IPL history Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga.
Having all-rounders like Anderson and Pollard is always an advantage for any team, not only in batting but also because of the duo’s electric fielding. Pollard, who didn’t find a place in the West Indies World Cup squad, will aim to prove his point and get his tiol spot back.
After a fantastic World Cup, Hazlewood will surely be handy for the team, considering his form.
However, the rich pool of foreign talent could pose the problem of plenty for the team, as IPL rules allow only four overseas players in the fil eleven.
No doubt like every season Malinga will be the key man for the 2013 champions. Since joining the side in 2009, he has bowled at an economy of 6.53 in 83 matches, claiming 119 wickets. The Sri Lankan is also the first bowler to complete 100 wickets in the competition.
While they have a strong batting and bowling arsel, its their athletic fielding under the watchful eyes of fielding guru Jonty Rhodes that gives them an edge.
Mumbai Indians play their first match against defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders in Kolkata on April 8. (IANS)