The impressive form of Mitchell Johnson (left) could not get him into the Mumbai Indians team through the player retentions. Lasith Malinga was retained despite his recent indifferent form © IANS
The player retentions of Mumbai Indians was always going to be a subject of debate considering the big names they had in the squad. The biggest miss of them was that of Mitchell Johnson. Abhijit Banare argues why Lasith Malinga could have been released in the auction instead of Johnson; even if it meant buying the Sri Lankan back in the ‘Right to Match’ option.
Mumbai Indians‘ squad overall was jam packed with many big-match players. As discussed in this article, for Mumbai it was always going to be a difficult task to separate the best from the better and the final five would be about who could win them more matches than the other. With the number of match-winners they had, there were many who missed out from the retention route. Before we speak of other players, let’s get the most talked about miss from Mumbai — Mitchell Johnson.
There was very little argument which could justify leaving out Johnson. In fact it was with the Mumbai Indians the pacer started his sensational comeback journey. The way he bowled and the jittery face of the batsmen was enough to identify that this pacer will succeed on any pitch. After helping Australia win the Ashes, Johnson was always going to be the best choice in comparison to the most reputed bowler in World T20 Lasith Malinga. With the cap on retaining overseas players the dilemma was always on the cards. Malinga’s form has been a matter of concern not just in the last season but for Sri Lanka as well. The curly hair with a smiling face delivering toe-crushers was blunted in a few matches in IPL 2013. Considering that Malinga will be a key bowler, his failure early on could stutter Mumbai’s campaign like it happened with Ricky Ponting. In all probability, Mumbai would be certainly investing their only right to match option on getting back the Australian pacer, but whether it was a good financial strategy will be interesting to see.
‘Right to Match’
By not retaining Johnson, they have opened up the options for other franchisees to bid for the prized player. The catch here is, most of the teams would be well aware of Mumbai’s preference for Johnson. With just 21 crores at hand to spend during the auction, there is a high chance that Mumbai could be drained out by a high bid amount in the process of getting back Johnson. In comparison, Mumbai could have gambled by releasing Malinga in the auction and getting him back. As mentioned earlier, Malinga’s form and fitness would have made other teams think twice whether Mumbai were serious about buying him back or they had lost faith in the bowler. Johnson will definitely be one of the most prized players when the auction comes up on February 12-13.
Other big misses
Dwayne Smith: The West Indian was just another opener experimented by Mumbai in the previous season. However, Dwayne Smith‘s temperament and ability to shepherd the innings was laudable. The maturity he showed in 2013 virtually saved Mumbai from almost all of the critical junctures of the IPL as well as in the Champions League. There was a strong case for Smith to be retained considering the value he could bring solely as a batsman, but Mumbai chose to have the explosive all-rounder Kieron Pollard.
Glenn Maxwell: He caught all the attention in the previous year’s auction only due to the amount Mumbai had invested to get him. And surprisingly he was hardly active for the most part of Mumbai’s campaign. But Glenn Maxwell sizzled in the few opportunities he got. Mumbai’s selections have been based on proven match-winners and Maxwell’s inclusion was most likely to be a gamble by leaving out other key players.
Considering that Lasith Malinga will be a key bowler, his failure early on could stutter Mumbai Indians’ campaign like it happened with Ricky Ponting. In all probability, Mumbai would be certainly investing their only ‘right to match’ option on getting back Mitchell Johnson
Pragyan Ojha: Though he has been among the most successful spinners in IPL, the shortest version is still tilted towards multi-dimensional cricketers. Pragyan Ojha, purely with his spin, was again a big price to be retained by Mumbai. In comparison, Harbhajan gave them the option of an equally good batsman.
Dinesh Karthik: This is a miss which will be highly debated. Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu both have been excellent batsmen. And in keeping, Karthik is far more experienced and reliable. The calculated aggression which both of these players are known for makes it difficult to argue who’s the better player. This will be a selection which could prove its worth only when the season starts.
Rishi Dhawan: Another key all-rounder was missed. The Himachal Pradesh player had a good Ranji season and would be another player in demand during the auction. Considering Mumbai’s star-studded line-up, things were always going to be difficult to retain someone like Dhawan who has just shown the promise to flourish.
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(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)