With the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League about to begin on Friday, the big question on everyone's mind is how does one stop the rampaging Mumbai Indians from winning three titles in a row after their wins last year in the UAE and in 2019 in Hyderabad?
Mumbai are the only team to have won five IPL titles, they stumbled to wins in their first four titles but the way they bossed the 2020 IPL title in the UAE - which finished in November - and with hardly any time for other franchises to change their teams because of the mini auction, it's going to be challenging for the rest of the seven sides to turn around their fortunes against the confident and power-packed champions.
Mumbai have the most destructive batting line-up with power-packed players right from the top to No. 7, with an average strike rate of 140, which is very frightening indeed for most of the bowlers. The right and left combination of their openers, captain Rohit Sharma and Quinton De Kock, followed by pocket-sized Ishan 'Bish-Bash' Kishan and their most consistent batsman for the last three years, Suryakumar Yadav, all play a fearless brand of cricket from the word go. And then to finish off their innings in style, they have Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya, who can destroy the good work done initially by the opposition with an assault that dents the confidence of the whole team.
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Mumbai play five matches in Chennai, four in Delhi, three in Bengaluru and two in Kolkata this year and will not have the home advantage of playing their minimum seven games in Mumbai where pacers such as Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and Nathan Coulter-Nile come into play because of the bounce the red soil that the Wankhede pitch offers. Chennai and Delhi traditionally help spinners and if there is a chink in their bowling, it's their spinners with Rahul Chahar and Jayant Yadav lacking the experience that can be put under the pump if opposition team attack them. Mumbai have brought in Piyush Chawla, the experienced spinner in their line-up, but he looked a distant cry from the bowler one saw during his peak days.
Moreover, teams who are spin healthy can target batsmen such as Rohit and De Kock so that they don't get a rollicking start to their innings. Easier said than done, but the best way to beat Mumbai is to play the same brand of cricket that they played last year, the England style of fearlessness and attack. There is a common saying that goes: 'If you can’t beat them, join them,' and I am sure captains such as Eoin Morgan of Kolkata Knight Riders, Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore and Thala Dhoni of Chennai Super Kings would have done their homework well to tame the big elephant Mumbai this time around.
Time will say whether the Mumbai Express can be stopped in its tracks.Which will be the team that derails them? Your guess is as good as mine.