Mitchell Johnson was one of the star performers for the Mumbai Indians last season © IANS
Mumbai Indians let go Mitchell Johnson as they didn’t retain him in the lead-up to the Indian Premier League 2014 auction. Kings XI Punjab benefited, as they picked him up for Rs 6.5 crores and Mumbai didn’t unleash their ‘Right to Match’. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines their gamble that didn’t pay off.
Did the Mumbai Indians (MI) err in not retaining Mitchell Johnson ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014? The left-arm pacer was one of the pillars of their successful campaigns at the IPL and the Champions League Twenty20 (T20) last year. Despite a thunderous performance during the Ashes 2013-14, where the batsmen hopped and stuttered to him, Mumbai chose to retain their old warhorse, Lasith Malinga instead of Johnson. And, on February 12, they couldn’t get him back at the auction even though they had the solitary ’Right to Match’ option at hand.
At the outset, it was quite certain that Mumbai wouldn’t get Johnson back at the auction. The reason is simple. By retaining five other players, they only had a purse of Rs 21 crores to fill their remaining slots. By relying on their ’Right to Match’ option they took a huge gamble. Johnson’s cricketing stakes have soared following his Ashes exploits and he was on numerous franchises’ radar in the lead-up. He would have anyway attracted a huge sum and Mumbai wouldn’t have been able to afford him with only a short purse at hand.
Johnson is currently at the peak of his powers and would have been a great asset to the side. His pace would have rattled any side, plus his rhythm being good, he hits the right areas consistently. Instead, Mumbai have gone for Malinga, who still remains one of the best T20 bowlers in the world. On current form, Johnson would have been a better bet, but perhaps Mumbai are looking at a commitment for three years. With Johnson featuring in all three Australian sides, he may have been unavailable at some points.
However, Malinga isn’t the same bowler anymore. During the last season, he didn’t quite find his consistency, but somehow rose to the occasion to help them win the final. He can deliver those toe-crushers; for some reason, he doesn’t seem effective enough anymore. In fact, he was under pressure to keep his place in the Sri Lankan side as well.
On the other hand, Mumbai have managed to get back Zaheer Khan after three seasons. Zaheer is experienced and can mentor the younger lot. On the field of play, he is well past his prime and isn’t a very good bet for T20 cricket. And, his fielding is also not very reliable, although he seems to be a lot fitter than what he was last year.
In a nutshell, Mumbai could have planned it a lot better and perhaps retained Johnson. It may have been a gamble to leave out Malinga, but it may well have worked with the reluctance of franchises to take the Sri Lankan players, irrespective of which formats they played for their country. Again, they didn’t have the benefit of hindsight. Thus, the auction is a game! You have to get it right to make a good squad.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)