CRICKET / The runner-up spot in the 2010 edition has been its best finish

Right from the day Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) flaunted the heavy purse to own the IPL Mumbai franchise at $111.9 million for ten years, Mumbai Indians (MI) has been more in the news for showing money power at player auctions than any spectacular team performance in the first five years of the Twenty20 extravaganza .

The most recent example is that of the franchise buying Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell for $1 million at the auction held in Chennai. MI’s talent scouts have meticulously targeted players gifted with the knack to hit the ball hard, high and long, bowl pace or spin smartly for four overs and prove to be a panther on the field.

To start with it went all out at the first player auction in Mumbai and made a successful bid for the explosive Sanath Jayasuriya at $975,000 which automatically made icon Sachin Tendulkar a million dollar player as the IPL rules stipulate that the icon player will receive 10 per cent more than the highest paid player.

The first two years turned out to be quite dismal. First Tendulkar missed seven matches in 2008 because of an irritating groin and the hope of the team getting a roaring start with Jayasuriya fizzled out.

Then Harbhajan Singh was banned on disciplinary grounds after he slapped S. Sreesanth at the conclusion of the match against Kings XI at Mohali.

The team won seven of the 14 matches and was placed below the mid-table position (5th) in the first season. It dropped by another two notches, winning just five matches in the second year when the Twenty20 league was relocated to South Africa.

Lack of depth

Tendulkar showed glimpses of form in the 13 matches he played in South Africa, but his side suffered on account of lack of depth in batting.

The inclusion of Jean-Paul Duminy, bought at $950,000 showed his utility topping the batting with 372 runs, but MI appeared out of sorts in the African continent.

But once MI went aggressive again at another player auction and bought West Indian Kieron Pollard at a total cost of $2.2 million (with the player getting $750,000 and the balance to the BCCI) things began to fall in place for the team in blue and gold lacing.

MI achieved its best in the third year, finishing first at the conclusion of the league and eventually as runner-up to Chennai Super Kings.

It finished third in 2011 and fourth in 2012 and went on to win the Champions League in 2011 defeating Royal Challengers Bangalore in the final.

The team was able to achieve optimum results with Tendulkar scoring 618 runs in the third year and the likes of Saurabh Tiwary, Ambati Rayudu, Pollard, Shikhar Dhawan and bowlers Harbhajan, Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga and Pollard playing their part.

The team also trimmed its support staff after a disastrous second season and has carried out a few changes bringing in fresh faces.

There has been a heavy turnover at the MI camp. Dwayne Bravo, Zaheer Khan, Dilhara Fernando, Ashish Nehra, Rudra Pratap Singh, Abhishek Nayar, Dhawan, Saurabh Tiwary, Robin Uthappa, Richard Levi, Herschelle Gibbs, Duminy, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Andrew Symonds are not in the scheme of things anymore.

The team will now, among the Indians, rely on the likes Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Munaf Patel, Dhawal Kulkarni and Harbhajan Singh. MI’s latest addition to the squad is the 19-year-old Gujarat medium pacer Jasprit Bumrah.

Ricky Ponting who played four matches for Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural season will return to IPL action as captain.

MI has a new coach in John Wright and chief mentor in Anil Kumble. Robin Singh and Jonty Rhodes are also part of the support staff.



THE SQUAD

Ricky Ponting (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Dwayne Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Harbhajan Singh, Amitoze Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jacob Oram, Jalaj Saxena, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Munaf Patel, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Phil Hughes, Pawan Suyal, Pragyan Ojha, Rishi Dhawan, Suryakumar Yadav, Sussant Marathe, Yuzvendra Chahal, Abu Nechim, Jaspreet Bumrah, Akshar Patel, Aditya Tare and Aiden Blizzard

THE MI FILE

Key players: Sachin Tendulkar (64 matches, 2047 runs in as many balls) and Lasith Malinga (83 wkts at 16.64 in 56 matches)

Highs: Runner-up in 2010

Lows: Seventh in 2009

Season’s first match: April 4 vs. RCB, Bangalore

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