The Mumbai Indians have been one of the most successful teams in the history of the IPL, having won it on three occasions. And the one thing common in all their three tournament victories so far has been team effort.
Mumbai are not often the team with the leading run scorer or the highest wicket-taker; instead, they rely on the right team combination and fighting spirit to reach the top. Team balance is therefore of paramount importance to the Mumbai Indians.
The lack of this very thing was starkly noticeable in the Mumbai Indians squad right after the big auction of 2018 got over. Ambati Rayadu and Nitish Rana - two reliable middle order batsmen who were the key architects of Mumbai's successful run in IPL 2017 - were no longer in the team, which resulted in an undeniable lack of solidity in the middle order.
Suryakumar Yadav was brought in to fill the void, but his expertise eventually got utilized at the top of the order. With Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard not in the best of form, the middle order looked more fragile than ever, and was almost always under pressure.
Eventually, Mumbai failed to qualify for the top 4. And nobody was really surprised.
It follows then that the priority of the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2019 will be to consolidate the middle order. And they are on that track already with their retention strategy, even before the auction has started.
With the Pandya brothers and Ishan Kishan as sure-shot members in the playing XI and Kieron Pollard and Ben Cutting as reserves, the lower middle order looks sorted. Positions 3 and 4, however, look extremely fragile even with the prospect of Rohit Sharma coming in to bat at one of them.
Pundits and ordinary fans alike would be unanimous in their opinion that Rohit should ideally be opening the innings, where he is at his destructive best. However, like the previous seasons, will he once again place the team cause before himself and slip in down the order?
Pollard, meanwhile, is a mere shadow of his glorious former self these days. Unless circumstances change drastically, he will struggle to find a spot in the playing XI.
This is where Quinton de Kock comes in as the missing piece in the puzzle. Having him in the XI means multiple things - having an alternative opening option, having an alternative middle order batsman, and also having an alternative wicket-keeper.
Add to that the probability of IPL 2019 being hosted in South Africa (due to the general elections in India), and De Kock is well-placed to set the stage on fire in his familiar home conditions.
Having De Kock in the squad means that the Mumbai Indians can effectively play him at any position in the top 4 along with Evin Lewis, Rohit Sharma and Surya Kumar Yadav, depending on the match situation and opposition attack.
Think of a scenario where Rohit Sharma and Evin Lewis open the innings. Even if either of them gets out within the first six overs, they can be replaced with one of Yadav or De Kock to keep the right-left combination intact. Thanks to their skills as openers, neither of the two would be at sea even if they have to come in early.
In fact, a lot of fans would remember MI going for De Kock in last year's auction as well. They were engaged in a bidding war with RCB, who eventually bought him for 2.8 crores.
Having let go of Jos Buttler, Mumbai were looking for someone with similar skills, and De Kock fit the bill perfectly. It was only because of the auction dynamics that Mumbai had to give up on the prospect of buying the charismatic keeper-batsman in IPL 2018.
This time around, they did not want to wait for the auctions. The trade with RCB now seems like a very smart decision indeed.
The IPL is probably the most competitive tournament across the world. The very best players compete with one another in this cash-rich tournament, with all the teams evenly balanced. The difference between the top 4 teams and bottom 4 teams often boils down to the playing combination of the XI. A squad might have the best players but if they do not complement each other, they would fail to make an impact in the long run.
Individual brilliance can win you matches occasionally, but only a team effort can help you win the IPL. Having De Kock in the squad serves this very purpose - of getting the team combination right.
There might be players more skilled or destructive than him, but he is probably the best match for Mumbai considering the overall team composition. His arrival is just the thing that could make a world of difference to the fortunes of Mumbai Indians in IPL 2019.