Mumbai Indians (MI) is arguably the best T20 team in the world. Having won 5 titles since 2013, they certainly look like one to dominate the tournament even in 2021. The role of the coaches, management and the scouting team has been a significant one and the same, who pick several quality players at the auction and prepare them for serving the nation. It is rightly said that no other franchise in the league has gifted India as many talented cricketers as MI has done in the last few years.
Coming off a successful season at the UAE, MI retained the majority of their squad members and did pick a few at the players’ auction for the 2021 season, rounding off their final squad. Yet again, the side looks balanced in all the departments with plenty of options available as per the match situation and conditions. That said, the possibility of them making changes to their winning XI is rare, and we can expect them to throw a full-strength line-up on the park in the opening fixture against RCB and persist with it throughout the tournament. On that note, we look at the strongest possible XI for MI in IPL 2021.
Openers: Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock
A modern-day great in the white-ball formats for India, Rohit will be raring to take the field and continue the dream run started in 2019. Inspite of being tactically astute as a skipper, Rohit hasn’t been able to transfer that confidence into his batsmanship, conjuring match-winning knocks on an inconsistent basis. The success of his fellow opener and other batsmen in the middle order has acted as a cover for the same and the Rohit we know will do whatever it takes to rectify the aspect and be amongst the runs in IPL 2021.
IPL 2020 was the best season for de Kock not just with the bat but behind the wickets as well. His all-out batsmanship took the pressure off Rohit, who could take a breather initially and build his innings, joining the onslaught later. The southpaw’s experience came in handy while the latter was out due to injury, forming an attacking opening pair with Kishan. Come the new season in 2021, de Kock will be bestowed with the same responsibility of carrying his bat through and posting daunting totals on the board.
Middle Order: Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan and Kieron Pollard
The most consistent performer for MI since his purchase in 2018, Yadav has become the ‘Mr. Dependable’ for the team, winning matches for the franchise from seemingly improbable situations. His calm demeanour and ability to read the game and match situations puts him in good stead to time his innings and get the team closer. While all were aware of the anchor role that he played, it was refreshing to see the Mumbai batsman also play the role of a finisher, smashing world-class bowlers like Rabada and Archer to various sides of the ground.
Known as a ‘pocket-sized dynamo’, Kishan seems to be in the form of his life, churning out hefty runs in every competition that he plays in. Ignored from the selection in the initial few encounters, Kishan made a grand entry, scoring 99 against RCB and then keeping his place till the end of the tournament. Apart from his left-handed batsmanship, Kishan is a fine mover in the field, saving crucial runs in the team’s cause and can also keep wickets if the team balance demands it. Considering all these factors, the thoughts of dropping him will never cross the management’s mind again.
Having recently hit 6 sixes in an over against Sri Lanka, becoming the third player ever to achieve the landmark in the history of the sport, Pollard too is in a happy space with respect to his cricketing career. Whatever he is striking, is coming off the middle part of the bat, travelling to far distances in the stands. The medium-pace bowling which had become a rare suit from the West Indian, too is coming off well, picking crucial wickets in the middle overs. Given such all-round showings, we can expect Pollard to endure another successful season with MI, helping them clinch their 3rd consecutive title in 2021.
All-rounders: Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya
When the world questioned his ability to exert an impact at the highest stage after a serious back injury, Hardik shut his critics by hammering quickfire runs coming in the lower middle order. His knocks turned out to be the difference between a par and an above-par total, potentially pushing the opposition out of the contest. While there are no concerns about his finishing skills, his right-arm seam bowling is what the world is looking forward to. If he can regain full fitness, returning to the side as an all-rounder, then there is nothing that can stop MI from winning their 6th title.
The elder of the Pandya brothers, Krunal experienced a dip in form with both bat and ball during the 2020 season of the IPL. As a batsman, he gave away his wickets cheaply, unlike before when he put a price tag over his wicket. While he was way too poor bowling left-arm orthodox, leaking plenty of runs and spoiling the hard work put in by the other bowlers. Despite this mediocre performance, Krunal is still a vital member of this MI line-up and can be expected to start the season, changing the fortunes in his favour.
Bowlers: Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah
Coulter-Nile was a surprise revelation for MI during the last season, who not just picked wickets at crucial junctures but also contributed handy runs coming lower down. His ability to move the ball and extract steep bounce off the surface comes of great help to the team, adding another dimension to the bowling attack. With Pattinson released and not picked again, Coulter-Nile will be hopeful of getting recurrent chances for the franchise at IPL 2021 and thus cementing his place to be never replaced again.
The lone wrist-spinner in the line-up, who did a decent job last season, getting the big fishes like Dhoni, Maxwell, KL Rahul etc., Chahar too looks certain to start the season for MI. The leg-spinner has come a long way in his short cricketing career, learning the finer nuances of the art and improving on his bowling with every passing match. Like every other bowler, Chahar also had bad days with the ball, giving away runs for fun. But it is the confidence of the management and skipper Rohit that he has managed to come out of it and be the best bet for the franchise in the new season.
One of the bright prospects for MI during IPL 2020, Boult brought all his experience into play and helped the side in making early in-roads. His accuracy, speed and skill-sets were of the highest order and not what most batsmen could handle at the biggest stage. While the left-armer has been around at the IPL for quite some time now, it was the 2020 season where he conjured his best performance, picking wickets in almost every game. Opposition teams are mindful of his threat and thus putting the hard yards in before the season to keep him at bay.
India’s go-to-bowler across all the three formats, Bumrah continues to surprise us with his performances for MI come every season of the IPL. Despite teams devising special plans to tackle him, they haven’t been successful as the speedster comes up with something new every time he takes the field for his side. His inch-perfect yorkers, quick and slower bouncers, and the vicious cutters are still things of awe for the batsmen and cricketing fraternity, compelling them to stand up and applaud the master every time he does it.