Mumbai Indians have drafted 3 overseas and 4 Indian players © AFP
Mumbai Indians have drafted 3 overseas and 4 Indian players © AFP

The IPL auction for 2017 got over before anyone could figure out what the hullabaloo was about. In less than two months’ time it will be time for the players to justify the price tags the owners have put on them. IPL auction 2017 ended on a short and quick note with some surprise inclusions as well as exclusions. While expected names like Imran Tahir, Mohammad Shahzad, Kyle Abbott, Irfan Pathan, Prithvi Shaw, Priyank Panchal, Mitchell Santner and Mehedi Hasan Miraz were unfortunate to miss out, the likes of Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan, Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, Mitchell Johnson, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi made the cut. However, the hot properties of this season’s auction were Ben Stokes and Tymal Mills, and for some reason, Varun Aaron.

Mumbai Indians (MI) had their share of glory, lifting the coveted IPL trophy twice (2012 and 2015). They were very much in the race to defend their champions tag in 2016, but the slump towards the end of the road brought them to No. 5, paving way for the other teams to reach the glory. MI did have names that shone in the previous season apart from regulars like Ambati Rayudu and captain Rohit Sharma. Krunal Pandya was a new find, as was Jos Buttler. However, they sorely missed the services of Lasith Malinga, who was away from international cricket due to knee injury. IPL 2017 auction: Mumbai Indians (MI) have opportunity to fortify their batting

When IPL announced the released and retained lists of players on December 19 last year, MI had no drastic changes to their side apart from releasing Martin Guptill and Corey Anderson. Guptill was underused and played a mere 3 matches, that too in the absence of Lendl Simmons. MI did not opt for the injury-prone Guptill this season. Anderson, the second-costliest buy for MI in 2014 for INR 4.5 crores, was bought by Delhi Daredevils (DD) for INR 1 crore.

MI had retained 20 players and could afford a maximum of 7 more. Most journalists and press houses had bets on MI going for openers. However, the franchise saw the return of their good ol’ players back to the squad with newbies all set to showcase talent. They could have gone for Alex Hales, Roy or Shahzad, who were up for grabs, but MI did not seem interested. They concentrated on recalling their old players and boost the younger bunch with new entrants.

Karn Sharma?

MI got into a mysterious tug-of-war with Gujarat Lions (GL) the moment Karn Sharma’s name was announced. The base price of INR 30 lakhs went up INR 3.2 crores; Karn was the costliest buy for MI this season.

Although he was initially bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Karn never got an opportunity to prove his calibre. In 2013 he was drafted in by Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).

He provided tough competition to his senior leg-spinner Amit Mishra with a mature performance that season. He grabbed 11 wickets off 13 matches with an economy rate of 6.60.

He also scored 39 against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the same edition, thus showing glimpses of a potential all-rounder.

SRH bid for him in 2014 as well, going into a tussle with Kings XI Punjab (KXIP). At INR 3.75 crores Karn was the most expensive domestic cricketer that season as well. However, his bowling has shown no exceptional growth over the years, which could be alarming for MI. Rohit hopeful of better show from MI in IPL 2017

MI already have spinners like Krunal Pandya and veteran Harbhajan Singh along with Jagadeesha Suchith, Siddhesh Lad and Nitish Rana also providing a stiff competition in the squad. The selection of Karn Sharma, that too at a price that high, defies logic.

Return of Mitchell Johnson and Saurabh Tiwary, MI’s new entrants:

MI will be glad to have the services back of Johnson after the 2014 fiasco. Johnson, top-ranked bowler for MI on his debut season in 2013, was replaced by Malinga for the coming seasons. Johnson was the key to MI’s success in 2013 grabbing 24 wickets off 17 matches. He was also decent with bat.

However, with the inclusion of Johnson, MI have various options to play around in terms of overseas bowlers.

Speaking of the new entrants, Asela Gunaratne’s match-winning 84 not out against Australia in the ongoing T20I series has knocked his good-luck door at the right time. MI have strengthened their batting unit with the inclusion of Gunaratne for a mere INR 30 lakhs, a bid that ended with a wide smile on the MI owners face.

Gunaratne has already amassed 164 runs from his 6 T20Is. He played a blinder on Sunday, pulling off a win for Sri Lanka almost out of nowhere. MI will want to bring his batting exploits in forefront this season to their advantage.

Krishnappa Gowtham also plays a crucial role in building the batting line-up. His timely knock of 74 against Australia in practice match at Brabourne Stadium, was a boon for MI.

And to make themselves a more formidable unit, MI have included Saurabh Tiwary, whose willow has not done much talking in IPL off late. However, being part of MI earlier and now back to the squad, Tiwary will be itching to go all guns blazing in this season. Jayawardene appointed MI coach

But the entry of Kulwant Khejroliya of Jhunjhunu Dragons in Rajasthan Premier League remains a mystery for many.

The road ahead for MI:

In a nut-shell, MI’s intentions are very clear — to bring the experienced and the young together and claim the IPL title for the third time.

Apart from these new buys, MI’s opening slots will be handled by the regulars with the top-order including Rohit, Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons. These power-hitters are enough to handle a chase or provide sturdy beginnings. They will be followed by an explosive middle-order consisting of Buttler, Rayudu, Pollard, Gunaratne, Tiwary and the Pandya brothers (Hardik and Krunal).

A pace unit that varies from Jasprit Bumrah to Southee and a spin unit that is broadened with the inclusion of Karn, MI are surely eyeing to stay longer in this year’s IPL edition.

Mumbai Indians Squad (overseas cricketers are underline): Rohit Sharma (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Nicholas Pooran (wk), Kulwant Khejroliya, Karn Sharma, Saurabh Tiwary, Asela Gunaratne, Krishnappa Gowtham, Mitchell Johnson, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell McClenaghan, Ambati Rayudu, Shreyas Gopal, Siddhesh Lad, Vinay Kumar, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Tim Southee, Lasith Malinga, J Suchith, Lendl Simmons, Nitish Rana, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Jitesh Sharma, Deepak Punia.