Now let me say that I'm under no illusions, I know Mumbai has fared pretty bad, sinking to a lowly 7th place last season. But that doesn't tell us the whole story. Mumbai were placed in the top four at some point during the season, but failure to pocket the close games (both from winning and losing positions) cost them a semifinal spot.
It also must be said that selection policies and the team management have been poor so far, utilising a number of completely out-of-depth players over the two seasons, like Rohan Raje, Yogesh Takawale, Siddarth Chitnis, Musavir Khote and V Yeligati. These players got the odd game and showed that they did not belong. Furthermore, they let Manish Pandey slip through their fingers - he went to score a century for BRC and become a candidate for selection for India, too. Bad fortune has prevailed too, as the trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, the seniormost players (Indian, that is) have all missed large chunks of MI's campaigns due to (in this order) injury, itchy hand, injury.
Now for the bright side. Sachin is in the second-best purple patch of his life, Zak and Harby are fit and available, Pollard has been bought, as have some decent performers fresh from the ICL, and the young batsmen - Rahane, Dhawan, Nayar, Saurabh Tiwary - look like batter players than they were last year. A better keeper, Chandan Madan, has been bought, so out with Pinal Shah and his reverse-paddles off medium pacers.
Back to negative news, then. Sanath Jayasuriya looks more rabid everyday - his innings are getting shorter over time. JP Duminy can't play spin anymore, or much else for that matter. Malinga hasn't played in a while, no match practice for him. Bravo and Pollard are playing Zimbabwe and will miss at least a couple of games - Pollard looks worryingly uncomfortable against spin, too. Zimbabwean spin. Yikes. Rahane, too will miss a couple of games, as he's leading Mumbai (state side) in a T20 domestic tournament (yep, a different one). Also, MI haven't yet gotten rid of Dilhara Fernando - I fear they plan to use him at some point this season. I have a feeling that stupidity will prevail and specialists, proven specialists won't get to play once again - I'm talking about Graham Napier and Ryan McLaren. Stuart Binny, another T20 all-rounder who was one of the biggies of ICL, hasn't been drafted in either. Craaayzeee maaan.
This is the squad -
Sachin Tendulkar (capt), Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Chandan Madan, Syed Sahabuddin, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shikhar Dhawan, Graham Napier, Dilhara Fernando, Dwayne Bravo, Zaheer Khan, Ali Murtaza, Saurabh Tiwary, R Sathish, Aditya Tare, Ishan Malhotra, Rahul Shukla, Abhishek Nayar, JP Duminy, Sanath Jayasuriya, Harbhajan Singh, Ryan McLaren + Ajinkya Rahana to return after 2-3 matches.
If I were to have my way, this would be the line-up. Notice that Jayasuriya is missing.
Sachin Tendulkar (c)
Chandan Madan (wk)
I'm already sensing half of Mumbai giving me the crazy-eye, so I can safely say that my line-up + stupidity = this line up, which is way more likely :
Sachin Tendulkar (c)
Chandan Madan (wk)
With Sachin yet to dominate this format and Jayasuriya going bust prematurely more often than not, that opening partnership is pretty much stop-start. Saurabh Tiwary, Ambati Rayudu or another all-rounder, R Sathish, will play until Rahane's back, but what concerns me is the lack of a back-up spinner for Harby, apart from Sanath. There's no Nanda in the squad and Sachin might not volunteer, Rayudu and Duminy are the only other batsmen who can bowl spin.
Now, it's time for
My Official-sounding prediction for MI this season: 5th place. I know I said that for KXIP too, but it'll be between these two for a semi spot and 5th place. There are a lot of issues to be sorted out, like team structure, and if that happens quick, great. This is as far as I can see them going right now.
Up next - I don't know. So why don't you check out this awesome blueness.