'Mumbai Indians packed with match winners'
With a good pedigree of players at their disposal and a bench strength that could cause a problem of plenty, Mumbai Indians have a big chance of making the semis this IPL, writes Harsha Bhogle.
The first thing that hits you when you see Team Mumbai is the amount of pedigree in it -- match winners strewn everywhere and as many options as you want.
The team, despite not making it to the final, finished second on the Castrol Index with 122 points as the Index is calculated based on the combination of a team's batting, bowling and fielding performances. The top six are as good as any -- have the wicketkeeper in it and a couple of bowling options. The players picking themselves there are Sachin Tendulkar, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik and Kieron Pollard. As back-up, they have the increasingly highly-rated Suryakumar Yadav and a pool of overseas players to choose from.
Courtesy: www.castrolcricket.comIndian Premier League 2012: Complete Coverage of fifth season of IPL
Image: Mumbai Indians fielding coach, Jonty Rhodes, shares his thoughts with the players during a training session
'Levi could open with Tendulkar'
Tendulkar could open with either of Herschelle Gibbs, Aiden Blizzard or Davy Jacobs -- though my guess is that the in-form Richard Levi will get the first call for two or three games.
There is also the option of pushing Robin Peterson up, as he has done in South Africa quite often, and playing a seam bowling all-rounder at number seven from among James Franklin, Mitchell Johnson or the most likely Thisara Perera. Perera is probably the better bowler than Franklin but the New Zealander was outstanding in the Champions League!If Peterson does indeed play, they have the option of leaving out Pragyan Ojha and playing three seamers in Lasith Malinga, RP Singh and Munaf Patel, now fit and looking like he is in form.
Image: Harbhajan Singh with Sachin Tendulkar
'Malinga could join RP or Munaf in the bowling attack'
Malinga, who was Mumbai's Top Performer last year with 52 points, will be the spearhead of their bowling attack. If, as I suspect, Levi and Perera make up the overseas players, Ojha should play alongside Harbhajan and either RP Singh or Munaf join Malinga to complete the line-up. It will give them three seamers, two quality spinners and back-up in Pollard and Rohit Sharma. It's not a bad side.Indeed even if Tendulkar misses a game, they could open with Gibbs and Levi and play Suryakumar Yadav as the dangerous floater.
Image: RP Singh gets tips from Shaun Pollock at a Mumbai Indians training session
'Will be surprised if they don't make semis'
If Malinga needs a break, they have the very highly-rated Clint McKay available. And if Mitchell Johnson starts getting it right in the nets, he could be a serious handful. Motivation won't be an issue there with a return to the Australian side top of his agenda.
Unlike with the Chennai team, they don't have to wait for anyone to turn up since everyone is available but that creates a problem of plenty. Often that is a good problem to have but when you have pedigreed players not getting a game, it can create unrest in minds and in dressing rooms.Team Mumbai should be very disappointed if they don't make the semi-finals. I will be surprised if they don't.
Image: Mumbai Indians players at a fielding drill