Mumbai Indians will be hoping that Jofra Archer hits top form in the absence of an injured Jasprit Bumrah as the record five-time champions aim to turn things around after a horrendous last season.
Mumbai Indians endured an inexplicably poor IPL 2022, finishing last with just four wins and 10 losses in 14 games.
Indeed, it was the worst performance by Mumbai Indians who finished last — for the first time ever across all 15 editions.
Mumbai's poor show coincided with their captain's worst season as well. Never before in history of IPL had Rohit Sharma finished a season without a fifty, and in IPL 2022, MI's run-machine at the top recorded his lowest numbers since the competition began: a mere 268 runs at a forgettable average of 19.14.
The masterful Bumrah, who saved some blushes with the ball for Mumbai Indians with 15 wickets in 14 outings, will miss IPL 2023 after undergoing a back surgery.
Bumrah's absence, despite the availability of the menacing Jofra Archer, cannot be filled. Additionally, MI will also be without Australian pacer Jhye Richardson who has had a hamstring surgery and miss the entire IPL since he is out of action for a few months.
Mumbai were without any frontline spinner last season and the void was certainly felt, which could again be a concern given that the most noticeable name in the roster for this year is of veteran spinner Piyush Chawla, who last played an IPL game two years ago for Chennai Super Kings.
The world No 1 T20I batter Suryakumar Yadav will aim to bounce back strongly after a poor ODI series against Australia, and he is also the most dependable name in the MI middle-order consisting India's Tilak Varma and South Africans Dewald Brevis and Tristan Stubbs.
While Sharma will be expected to fire on all cylinders at the top with the explosive Ishan Kishan in tow, Tim David will be expected to go ballistic in the lower order.
At the auction, Mumbai Indians spent Rs 17.50 crore out of their Rs 20.55 crore purse on Cameron Green, with the Australian being considered as a like-for-like replacement for Kieron Pollard, who has taken up the role of batting coach.
MI will hope the availability of Archer should control some extent of the damage caused by Bumrah's absence and Jason Behrendorff should bring in more variations with his left-arm pace, who had a successful stint in the Big Bash League taking 21 wickets in 14 matches for title winners Perth Scorchers.
MI captain Sharma has been among runs but not with the magnitude he is known for, and given that the team is still rebuilding its squad and finding best combinations on the field post the mega auction, it will be a fresh challenge for a largely young batting unit.
While Bumrah's absence cannot be fulfilled, Mumbai are at least in the clear. The team can make plans with pace bowling options available but the challenge of not having a dependable spinner could prove too much.
The young Kumar Kartikeya did leave an impression in four matches he played last year, but Mumbai's dependability could entirely fall upon fast bowlers and all-rounders like Green to share the workload throughout the season.
With the fresh season ahead, Mumbai Indians will be keen to make the most of getting a full run at their home ground Wankhede Stadium, where they played a mere four matches last year and yet lost two.
Sharma and co have plenty of young players across departments which indicate MI have kept an eye on the future while rebuilding their squad. The young talent in Brevis, Varma, Stubbs, David and even Green will have a lot to prove and they will be keen to make a head start.
Mumbai captain Sharma can also take a high-pressure competition in IPL to sharpen his leadership skills in front of packed stadiums to prepare for the bigger challenge later this year, when he will lead the national side in the 50-over World Cup in India.
Suryakumar could be the raging bull Mumbai Indians would be waiting to unleash. The batter has made an incredible mark in international T20s and he would be keen to shrug off the failures that have come his way recently.
Sharma and Kishan form a dangerous pair at the top and they will want to make a strong start right from game one, an away fixture against Royal Challengers Bangalore on April 2. The right-handed David can be destructive if MI need acceleration so can Brevis in the middle order.