Lasith Malinga and Sachin Tendulkar (L) © Getty Images
Lasith Malinga and Sachin Tendulkar (L) © Getty Images

 

By Vinay Anand

 

For over two seasons now, Mumbai Indians have looked the team to beat in the Indian Premier League (IPL). They have been on top of the points table and have shown no intention of moving from there. Despite losing to the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the 2010 final, it is safe to assume that the Mumbai Indians were by far the best team in the previous edition. A lot has changed since then. The 2011 team is looking more formidable after being bolstered by the inclusion of Andrew Symonds, Rohit Sharma and Munaf Patel.

 

There are five huge factors that have contributed to the Mumbai Indians success:

 

The Tendulkar presence

 

Tendulkar is the son of the Mumbai soil and, for Mumbaikars, it’s a matter of huge pride that the national treasure is from their own city. The energy that the team gets from the packed stadium is awesome. And because of the presence of Tendulkar, Mumbai Indians get crowd support even in away games. Inside the dressing room, Tendulkar is not another player or merely the team’s captains. He draws the kind of reverence that few players in history have from their own team mates. His word means a lot – be it the players, support staff or even the team owners. For many of the young players, it’s a dream to share the same dressing room with the great man and the players give their 100% for this man. Nobody wants to let Tendulkar down. Unlike in the days when he did not quite distinguish himself as an India captain, Tendulkar today is seen as an effective captain.

 

The Orange cap holder has largely stayed with Tendulkar, underlining his form with the bat. He has played the sheet anchor’s role to perfection while allowing the likes of Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Andrew Symonds to go about their destruction of the opposition.

 

Malinga the Menace

 

Lasith Malinga has been most explosive for Mumbai Indians, arguably the most dreaded T20 bowler in modern cricket that batsmen hate to face. His strike-rate and consistency boggles the mind. He tops the charts in the bowling department and is the rightful owner of the Purple cap. RP Singh over took him as the highest wicket taker in IPL history on Friday, but the record could come back to him by the time IPL4 draws to a close.

 

Indian talent

 

IPL rules permits a team to field only four foreigners at a time. It’s critical, thus, that the mandatory seven Indian players are of high quality. And it’s here that Mumbai Indians have done well in the auction by picking high-impact players like Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh and, of course, Tendulkar. Four of the five have played at the biggest stage and Rayudu has been a revelation this tournament with over 350 runs to his name.

 

Numbers 6, 7 & 8

 

Even if the top half of the Mumbai Indians were to fall cheap on a bad day, there is still much to worry for opposition bowlers who have to contend with dangerous match-winners like Kieron Pollard, Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan. Mumbai have got the best fire power in the lower middle order across all IPL teams. So strong is the Mumbai batting that, on more than one occasion the trio have been underutilized.

 

The Rhodes scholars

 

Having Jonty Rhodes as fielding coach is bound to improve even the worst of fielders. But, with the likes of Symonds, Pollard, Rohit Sharma, Aiden Blizzard, Tirumalasett Suman and Rayudu in the team, even Rhodes won’t have much to do. Mumbai Indians have been exceptionally brilliant on the field and even a known liability like Munaf has been diving and fielding like never before.

 

There is every indication that it could be another Mumbai Indians-CSK final – in the latter’s den. But 2011 could well be the crowning glory for Mumbai Indians, such has been their firepower in batting and bowling, their overall consistency and the ability to change the course of a game within a few overs.

 

(Vinay Anand, 17, has an uncanny eye for detail. He revers cricket – looking beyond the glamour into the heart of the game where true passion, perseverance and grit meet. To him, there is no greater joy than coming closer to the sport while exploring its intricacies through his writing and treading ahead to establish himself as a writer and presenter)