Last time when Indian Premier League had travelled to the United Arab Emirates, Mumbai Indians had a horror outing. It was in 2014, owing to the clash in dates with the General Elections, and IPL, only for the first 20 matches, were played abroad, with each team playing five games. Mumbai Indians lost all five of them. Another concern for the fans is that it's 2020, an even year, and Mumbai Indians have shown a trend of winning IPL titles in their odd years - 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019. Lastly, Mumbai have never made it to the playoffs when they have played the season opener. Right from the beginning, the odds are against the defending champions, but the very same numbers could serve them as an extra incentive in their bid to become only the second franchise after Chennai Super Kings to successfully defend the IPL title.
Mumbai do have a solid team, certain to put them in the playoffs. And it is not the case that the strength in their lineup is concentrated on just one department. They have a mighty batting lineup and equally strong bowling options to choose from despite the absence of Lasith Malinga. Besides, they have the Pandya brothers and Kieron Pollard to balance the team. Ergo, making them, on paper, look one of the strongest contenders for the title.
Batting: Mumbai Indians have a good mix of the left (Quinton de Kock, Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya) and right-hand options (Rohit Sharma, Surya Kumar Yadav and Pollard) to balance their batting lineup with Surya Kumar and Ishan serving as floaters.
Rohit and De Kock will be their openers with the captain playing the anchor role in the partnership. However, Rohit's IPL form might be bit of a concern for the franchise. Despite being a white-ball maverick, in the last three seasons, he averaged only 23.78 (2017), 23.88 (2018) and 28.92 (2019) with a strike rate of 121.97, 133.02 and 128.57 respectively. If Rohit can start firing for Mumbai, his opening combination with De Kock, who has a strike rate of 185 in powerplays in T20s since 2019, can prove to be lethal.
Suryakumar and Ishan can take the next two spots followed by the astounding finishing lineup bolstered by the presence of Pollard and the two Pandyas. In some scenarios, based on match-ups, Suryakumar can be No.3 while Hardik can take the No.4 spot followed by Ishan and Pollard. Suryakumar can play a key role for Mumbai in the middle-order given his prowess against spinners and batting numbers in the middle-overs. Surrounded by primarily hard hitters, Suryakumar serves as a perfect option to fall anchor in the middle-order.
Bowling: Mumbai lost Malinga, their highest wicket-taker and star from the IPL 2019 final, ahead of the tournament, yet the franchise have enough options at their disposal to form a perfect bowling lineup with two left-arm pace options as well - Boult and Coulter-Nile.
In Malinga's absence, Jasprit Bumrah will be leading the pace lineup and Mumbai would want him to be fit for all the matches. Boult would be opening the bowling and his presence would allow Bumrah to cover the death overs alongside Coulter-Nile. Besides these three, Mumbai also have Hardik, who will be operating in the middle overs, James Pattinson, who came in as Malinga's replacement and Dhawal Kulkarni, a swing-bowling option.
In the spin department, Mumbai have, besides Krunal, Rahul Chahar and Jayant Yadav. Jayant will prove handy against left-hand batters.
Ideal playing XI: Rohit, De Kock, SKY, Ishan, Pollard, Hardik, Krunal, Coulter-Nile, Boult, Chahar, Bumrah.
Verdict: A definite top-four finish.