The most successful franchise in the history of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Mumbai Indians have won the tournament four times. The defending champions will once again aim to defend their title in the upcoming 2020 edition of the league.
The battle really begins at the auction table though. The Mumbai-based franchise will look to buy smartly in order to overcome certain failures experienced in the past, especially their tendency to start a season slowly.
Mumbai have always had a relatively large pool of people who work behind the scenes. They have a huge support staff including talent scouts who work to strategise the franchise’s action on the auction day.
MI have had a history of unearthing raw Indian talent. The likes of Jasprit Bumrah, the Pandya brothers and Mayank Markande were all given an opportunity at MI. With another auction around the corner, the Blue brigade would want to throw a few surprises by getting players who can potentially take the IPL by storm.
The Rohit Sharma-led team will want to get the best out of the mini-auction by roping in players who can help them defend the title. They might also consider a few back-up players for certain spots.
Here’s a look at three players MI can target in the IPL auction:
#1 Zahir Khan (leg-spinner)
A young chinaman bowler from Afghanistan, Zahir Khan is gradually making a name for himself with consistent performances at each level of cricket. His rose to prominence when he was snapped by Rajasthan Royals for INR 60 lakh in 2018 after a bidding war between the Royals and MI. However, he couldn’t make the playing XI at any point in the season and went unsold in the next auction.
After making his ODI and Test debut for Afghanistan recently, Zahir is being viewed as one of the flag-bearers for Afghan cricket in the years to come.
The 20-year-old might finally get an opportunity to create an impact in the IPL next year. After releasing Mayank Markande in a trade with Delhi Capitals, MI would focus on roping in a quality leg-spinner to partner Rahul Chahar.
Zahir will be one of the players on their radar.
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#2 Manoj Tiwary (Middle-order bat)
A veteran at the domestic level, Manoj Tiwary is a fine batting talent who for some reason couldn’t earn himself a permanent spot in the national team. He had a brief stint with the Indian team, playing 12 ODIs and 3 T20Is, but was dropped despite putting in decent performances in the limited opportunities that came his way.
A seasoned campaigner even in the IPL, Tiwary has plied his trade for various IPL teams since 2008. However, the 33-year-old went unsold in the last IPL auction.
He returned to domestic cricket and has done reasonably well to once again present a case for himself in the upcoming auctions. His profile as a middle-order batsman might well interest MI considering the franchise faced a tough time with their struggling middle-order in the previous edition.
Tiwary can easily slot in at No. 5 or No. 6 with his ability to work the ball and even strike big in the death overs. He delivered the goods playing for Rising Pune SuperGiant in 2017 as a middle-order batsman, helping his team reach the final of the competition.
#3 Carlos Brathwaite (Backup-up all-rounder)
After a mediocre season with Kolkata Knight Riders in 2019, it is highly probable that the West Indies all-rounder will be released ahead of the IPL auction. Carlos Brathwaite, who was bought for a whopping auction price of INR 5 crore last year, failed to justify his price tag with any notable performances.
He faced stiff competition to break into the side and was seen warming the benches for a majority of the tournament. However, his exploits in T20 cricket are well-known; the mighty all-rounder is a match-winner on his day both with the bat and the ball.
Brathwaite might once again encourage interest among various franchises this year, including Mumbai Indians, at the auction table. Being a T20 freelancer, he comes in with a plethora of experience of playing in various T20 leagues around the globe.
MI might consider the Caribbean all-rounder as a back-up to Hardik Pandya, who’s currently out of the reckoning due to his back surgery. Given what he brings to the table, Brathwaite can be a like-for-like replacement for Pandya.