The WWE has its Road to WrestleMania which is a pivotal part of their calendar, thus in a similar vein, the BCCI and Indian cricket has the Road to IPL and one of its most critical pit-stops is arriving with the IPL Mega Auction. The last time the mega auctions were held was back in 2018 and big money had been shelled out then and in 4 years time, the scenarios have changed. 2 new teams have joined the competition in the form of the Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants, while several new players have emerged in the frontlines and several older ones have retired and the role of data and matchups and the importance of proper planning have further evolved.
On 12th-13th February 2022, the fortunes of 590 players (370 Indian and 220 Overseas) will be decided & new stories will be scripted.
The Mumbai Indians (MI) have gone into the auctions retaining the quartet of Rohit Sharma (Rs. 16 crore), Jasprit Bumrah (Rs. 12 crore), Suryakumar Yadav (Rs. 8 crore) and Kieron Pollard (Rs. 6 crore).
In 2018, MI had assembled a promising squad, which was brimming with potential. They had the likes of Pat Cummins, Mustafizur Rahman, Ben Cutting, Ishan Kishan & Evin Lewis joining the camp, but fell short of the playoffs that season. But 2019 and 2020 saw them rewrite the T20 script in a completely new manner, with the acquisitions of explosive South African opening keeper-bat Quinton de Kock and the New Zealand left-arm pacer Trent Boult adding a completely different dimension to their squad and that saw them win back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020 before falling short of the playoffs yet again in 2021.
As they approach the 2022 auctions, the major slots they need to fill up are:
1. Opening Batsman (preferably a Wicket-Keeper)
2. Middle-order Enforcer (preferably a left-hander)
3. All-rounder Finisher (preferably 2 all-rounders, one of whom can bowl spin)
4. Indian Spinner
5. Overseas Pacer (preferably 2, with a left-arm powerplay bowler and a death-overs bowler)
6. Indian Pacer (either a backup or a partner to Bumrah in the first 11)
The options that Mumbai have available to them in these slots are as follows:
1. OPENERS: Quinton de Kock, Ishan Kishan, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Devon Conway, Finn Allen, Paul Stirling.
2. MIDDLE-ORDER BATSMEN: Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Ishan Kishan (mentioned earlier), Nitish Rana, Liam Livingstone, Sam Billings, Tim David, Shahrukh Khan.
3. ALL-ROUNDERS: Jason Holder, David Willey, Krunal Pandya, Shahbaz Ahmed, Washington Sundar, Wanindu Hasaranga, James Neesham, Raj Angad Bawa, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Chamika Karunaratne, Odean Smith, Romario Shepherd.
4. OVERSEAS PACERS: Kagiso Rabada, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult, Mark Wood, Dushmantha Chameera, Marco Jansen, Pat Cummins, Adam Milne, Tymal Mills, Jofra Archer (Silent Tie-Breaker Bid).
5. INDIAN SPINNERS: Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Rahul Chahar, Jayant Yadav, Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore, Mayank Markande.
6. INDIAN PACERS: Deepak Chahar, Avesh Khan, Kartik Tyagi, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Ishan Porel, Chetan Sakariya, Harshal Patel.
From this set, the players MI need to aggressively target are the following:
1. ISHAN KISHAN
Ishan Kishan has developed into a high-impact, explosive and multi-positional left-handed wicketkeeper batsman since joining the Mumbai Indians in 2018 and his returns in the 2020 season were truly quite brilliant, where he scored 516 runs at a stunning stat line of 57.33/145.76 (batting average/strike rate), with a tournament-high 30 sixes included in his runs and batted both at no.4 and also as an opening batsman. His wicket-keeping is improving and despite a lean run in the 2021 season, where he got dropped for a few games, he returned to form in the last couple of games and has shown what he is capable of. His positional flexibility and wicket-keeping ability will make him a very attractive proposition for Mumbai to pay a premium to repurchase him in the auction.
2. ROMARIO SHEPHERD
Shepherd’s come through massively in the last couple of seasons in the CPL where he’s improved his batting credentials and has become a terrific end-overs explosive finisher and has added value to his bowling and is a regular wicket-taker. This has also seen him return to the West Indies side and his promising displays in the T20 series against England would make him an interesting prospect for Mumbai Indians, who need a replacement for that Hardik Pandya slot and Shepherd can be the answer for this role. The alternative for a Romario Shepherd can be found in the Englishman David Willey, who comes with the added advantage of being a left-arm pacer who can bowl upfront and can be used as a flexible floater in the batting order at any position between 1-8.
3. NITISH RANA
Nitish Rana had been with the Mumbai Indians before from 2015-17 and did especially well for them in the title-winning 2017 season, before being bought by the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2018 Mega Auctions. While he’s had his issues with inconsistency and at times, has been found suspect to the short-pitched stuff, he’s one of the most dynamic players against spin & defeats the traditional weakness that left-handed batsmen have against off-spin bowling, which further enhances his value. His re-acquisition by Mumbai Indians in the Mega Auction will give them a very capable spin-hitting left-handed enforcer, who alongside Suryakumar Yadav will be able to bulwark the MI batting.
4. LOCKIE FERGUSON
The Kiwi pacer has emerged as one of the fastest and most dangerous T20 enforcer pacers, who’s gained a great reputation to bowl in the slog overs. Armed with the capability to scorch the speed guns at over 150 kph and the ability to mix up his lengths in the death overs, he would be able to provide a perfect foil to Jasprit Bumrah in the 16-20 overs phase, where Bumrah can push through the yorker and Ferguson can use his ability to mix the yorker with the hard length deliveries to create a state of doubt for a batsman. Also, the presence of compatriot Shane Bond in the MI management will surely work as an additional factor for them to bid for Ferguson. In the alternative that Ferguson goes out of Mumbai’s reach, they can look to the English speedster Mark Wood to perform a similar role.
5. YUZVENDRA CHAHAL
Chahal’s had a mini resurgence ever since being shocking left out for the 2021 T20 World Cup squad. He had a superb UAE leg with the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the second part of the tournament and has regained his place in the Indian team with some equally decent performances against West Indies in the ongoing ODI series. Mumbai for years have lacked an elite-quality Indian spinner in their arsenal and Chahal’s probable return to his first home might solve that issue, as skipper Rohit Sharma has been known to share a close personal bond with him and that has also reflected in the manner in which Sharma has used him as his strike spinner in the limited sample space. The presence of a Chahal will be able to complete the MI bowling attack, which has been an impregnable fortress for a few seasons.
6. KARTIK TYAGI
Mumbai Indians are known for grooming youngsters and Kartik Tyagi is one of the fastest-rising youngsters in the Indian circuit and has captured the attention of several experts with his pace and his nerveless ability to stick to his guns even when under pressure. His epic final over against the Punjab Kings in the 2021 IPL season where he managed to defend 4 runs and win Rajasthan Royals the game by a bare margin of 2 runs still remains fresh in the memories. His ability to bowl the yorker and mix up his line and length in the death overs while clocking speeds over 140 kph makes him a very interesting prospect & will give Mumbai the chance to experiment with their line-up by pairing him up with Bumrah and thus reducing their dependency on their famed 2 overseas pacer line of attack.