Mumbai Indians made a major move ahead of the IPL 2024 mini auction by getting back star all-rounder Hardik Pandya in a mega transfer deal from the Gujarat Titans.
Five-time champions MI broke the bank to get Pandya back from a reluctant Titans, who had no option but to release their IPL winning skipper once he made his desire to leave clear.
At the same time, MI had to trade all-rounder Cameron Green to Royal Challengers Bangalore, whom they had bought for a whopping Rs 17.5 crore (Rs 175 million) last season.
Pandya's purchase for Rs 15 crore (Rs 150 million) though costly gives Mumbai Indians' line-up a lot of flexibility. Along with being a dependable middle order batter, the all-rounder is also capable of bowling his quota of four overs.
Replacing an overseas all-rounder with an Indian player also allows MI a lot of options when it comes to picking their foreign players, with only four allowed in the playing XI.
It was a smartly-timed move from MI as they would have never got a Team India player of the quality of Pandya at the December 19 auction in Dubai.
Pandya is also touted as a possible captaincy option for MI in the future. Rohit Sharma, 36, has at best a couple of years in the IPL and down the line MI might need a suitable contender to replace him, and who better than Pandya, who led Gujarat Titans to the IPL trophy in their debut season last year and a runners-up finish this season.
Another smart move was to get West Indian Romario Shepherd, who was traded from Sunrisers Hyderabad. He boasts of an impressive batting strike rate of over 150 and 109 wickets at an average of 23 in 99 T20 games.
MI have gone in for an overhaul of their bowling bench strength, releasing most of their overseas pace bowlers in Jofra Archer, Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith and Chris Jordan.
But they still have a strong pace attack in Jasprit Bumrah along with Australian left-arm pacer Jason Behrendorff and the young Akash Madhwal, who impressed last season, along with all-rounders Pandya, Tim David and Shepherd.
With Rs. 17.75 crore (Rs 177.5 million) in their kitty for the auction, MI could still target another quality overseas pacer, who could perform the role in the middle overs.
Spin is an area of worry for MI. Despite Piyush Chawla bagging 22 wickets, they will still be looking to get their hands on a quality spinner in the auction. They could aggressively bid for Adam Zampa, who was the second highest wicket-taker in World Cup 2023, or Sri Lanka's spin wizard Wanindu Hasaranga, who was shockingly released by Royal Challengers Bangalore, while England's veteran spinner Adil Rashid is another handy option.
Having released Jofra Archer, MI might want to buy a quality overseas fast bowler at the auction, which could either be Gerald Coetzee, who impressed during the World Cup with his wicket-taking ability during the middle overs.
Sri Lanka's Dilshan Madushanka, who bagged 21 wickets in the World Cup, is another good option along with New Zealand's Lockie Ferguson.
Shardul Thakur, with his vast experience of bowling at the Wankhede, is a handy bowler to have in the team for MI.
Rohit Sharma leads a powerful batting line-up also including Ishan Kishan, Tilak Varna, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Tim David among others.
IPL Auction Purse remaining: Rs 17.75 crore
Mumbai Indians Retained Players: Rohit Sharma (captain), Dewald Brevis, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Tilak Varma, Tim David, Vishnu Vinod, Arjun Tendulkar, Shams Mulani, Nehal Wadhera, Jasprit Bumrah, Kumar Kartikeya, Piyush Chawla, Akash Madhwal, Jason Behrendorff, Romario Shepherd (from LSG), Hardik Pandya (from GT).
Possible Targets at Auction: Adam Zampa, Gerald Coetzee, Dilshan Madushanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Adil Rashid, Shardul Thakur, David Willey, Michael Bracewell.