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IPL 2012 Team Preview: Mumbai Indians

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tendulkar_iplAfter failing to live up to the expectations in the first two seasons of the IPL, the Mumbai Indians produced strong results in IPL 3 and IPL 4 to become one of the most feared teams in domestic T20 competitions. Led till last season by Mumbai's and arguably the world's greatest batting exponent, Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai Indians have no dearth in talent and posses a plethora of match winners who can single-handedly take the side to victory.

Stand-in skipper Harbhajan Singh led them to glory in the Champions League tournament last year, and has been rewarded with full-time captaincy of the Mumbai team for this coming season. After faltering at the final hurdle in IPL 2010, MI, despite a strong start that saw them notch up 8 wins in first ten games, failed to qualify for the finals and finished third in last edition. Mumbai will be in action on the inaugural day of IPL 5 as they take on the defending Chennai Super Kings in Chennai on April 4.

With a couple of wise trades and some good buys at the recent auction, the squad now have great balance and will go into the tournament as favorites.

Batting:

The former skipper Sachin Tendulkar will no doubt be the lighthouse in the line up. As his 553 runs at 43.52 average in the last season would suggest, he has shown amazing adaptability in the shortest format and has also showcased how to score without taking much risks. As for his opening partner, Mumbai have two hard hitting Proteas to choose from, Herchelle Gibbs and Richard Levi, both bought at this year's auction. While Gibbs' outrageous strokeplay is well known, Levi's recent record breaking 117 against New Zealand will make him the front runner. Also in the contention will be Aiden Blizzard and Davy Jacobs, as both can double up as the wicketkeeper.

Manning the middle order will be the man exuding lazy elegance, Rohit Sharma. The youngster is on the verge of breaking into the national test side and a good IPL season will almost seal the deal for him. Sharma will have the company of one of the most feared players in T20, Trinidadian all rounder Kieron Pollard, who has the ability to turn a game on its head in a matter of few overs. Also playing their part would be the hard working youngsters Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Kaartik, with the latter playing his first season for Mumbai Indians after being traded from Kings XI Punjab.

Bowling:

The spearhead would undoubtedly be the slinger Lasth Malinga, who was head and shoulders above the other bowlers with 28 scalps. Even though he is not at the top of his game at the moment, he can be expected to cause trouble against inexperienced domestic players. The pace attack this season will have an even more lethal look owing to the new Aussie imports – Mitchell Johnson and Clint McKay. While McKay wont be available for the whole season due to his national commitments, Johnson's presence is assured as he is not in Australia's scheme of things at the moment.

With the number of foreign players in the XI being limited to four, the form of Indian medium pacers Rudra Pratap Singh and Munaf Patel will be vital. While Singh is the leading wicket taker in IPL with 64 victims, Munaf, with his clever change of pace, has been very effective as a first change bowler in home conditions.

Leading the spin department will be the new skipper Harbhajan Singh. The 'Turbanator' has been going through a low phase in his career and the IPL will provide him with a perfect opportunity to bring himself back into contention. Along with Harbhajan, Mumbai will also have the left-arm spin options of Pragyan Ojha and Robin Peterson and given the slowness of the track at the end of the season, they will play pivotal roles. In the support role, Mumbai have a few useful all-rounders in Pollard, James Franklin and Thisira Parera, who apart from bowling a few overs can also score valuable runs late in the innings.

Uncapped Indian players:

Rubbing shoulders with the big names will be a number of young Indian players who will be keen to prove their worth at the big stage. Assam pacer Abu Nechim impressed everyone with his temperament last season and he will once again be looking for his break this season. Competing for a spot with him will be Mumbai's Dhawal Kulkarni, who faded away quickly after bursting onto the scene. The likes of Tirumallasetti Suman, Aditya Tare and Suryakumar Yadav have the ability to play quick fire cameos, which can prove to be decisive in close contests.

Squad: Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma, Hershelle Gibbs, Richard Levi, Aiden Blizzard, Davy Jacobs, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Thisira Perera, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Robin Peterson, Pragyan Ojha, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel, Dhawal Kulkarni, Suryakumar Singh, Tirumallasetti Suman, Aditya Tare, Dinesh Karthik, Sushant Marathe, Abu Nechim, Sujit Nayak, Jaydev Shah, Rahul Shukla, Pawan Suyal, Apoorv Wankhade, Amitoze Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal

Batsmen: Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Hershelle Gibbs, Richard Levi, Aiden Blizzard,   Amitoze Singh, Jaydev Shah, Sujit Nayak, Suryakumar Singh, Tirumallasetti Suman, Apoorv Wankhade,

Bowlers: Pragyan Ojha, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel, Dhawal Kulkarni, Abu Nechim, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Robin Peterson,  Harbhajan Singh, Rahul Shukla, Yuzvendra Chahal, Pawan Suyal

All rounders: James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Thisira Perera, 

Wicketkeepers: Davy Jacobs, Aditya Tare, Dinesh Karthik, Sushant Marathe, Ambati Rayudu

Support Staff: Robin Singh (head coach), Paras Mhambrey (assistant coach), Shaun Pollock (bowling coach/ mentor), Jhonty Rhodes (fielding coach/advisor), Lance Klusener (batting consultant), Robert Gibson (Physio)

Likely Playing XI: Richard Levi, Sachin Tendulkar, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha / R P Singh.

Players to watch out:

Sachin Tendulkar: It took him a year to score the elusive hundredth ton but all the while he has looked in ominous touch. Even at 39, he will be the most vital wicket for the opposition.

Lasith Malinga: The slinger now has the reputation of being a twenty20 specialist and his ability to deliver yorkers at demand makes him a crucial member in the side.

Schedule:

Home fixtures at the Wankhede, Mumbai

April 6: MI vs PW, 4pm IST
April 11: MI vs RR, 8pm IST
April 16: MI vs DD, 8pm IST
April 22: MI vs KXP, 4pm IST
April 29: MI vs DC, 8pm IST
May 6: MI vs CSK, 4pm IST
May 9: MI vs RCB, 8pm IST
May 16: MI vs KKR, 8pm IST

Away Fixtures

April 4: MI vs CSK, at Chepauk, 8pm IST
April 9: MI vs DC, at Dr Y A Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, 8pm IST
April 25: MI vs KXP, at Punjab Cricket Association stadium, 4pm IST
April 27: MI vs DD, at Feroz Shah Kotla, 8pm IST
May 3: MI vs PW, at Subrata Roy Sahara stadium, 4pm IST
May 12: MI vs KKR, at The Eden Gardens, 4pm IST
May 14: MI vs RCB, at Chinnswamy , 4pm IST
May 20: MI vs RR, at·Sawai Mansingh stadium, 8pm IST

Also read our other previews: Royal Challengers Bangalore / Pune Warriors / Kolkata Knight Riders / Chennai Super Kings