Champions League 2013 September 19, 2013

Will Malinga's absence impact Mumbai?


Mumbai Indians had a Champions League title to their credit even before winning an IPL trophy. A team regularly tagged as pre-tournament favourites finally lived up to their billing when they beat the IPL's most successful team, Chennai Super Kings, in the final of IPL 2013. Mumbai were part of the Champions League last season as well, but struggled in South African conditions, failing to win any of their three completed games. Now with the tournament back in India, they will be more of a threat.

It will be an emotional moment, not just for Mumbai, but for cricket fans as Sachin Tendulkar signs off from mainstream limited-overs cricket upon the conclusion of this tournament. He had an ordinary IPL by his standards but at least got to be part of a winning IPL side. Getting there, Mumbai had to make some hard decisions, including dropping the underperforming Ricky Ponting as captain and batsman. Rohit Sharma not only led the side well, he also finished as the leading run-scorer for his side.

Mumbai suffered a blow in the lead up to this edition with the withdrawal of Lasith Malinga, one of their most prized overseas players, due to personal commitments. Their strength remains in their batting, with Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu - part of India's recent ODI squad in Zimbabwe - their key home players apart from Rohit. In this edition, Mumbai are in Group A with Rajasthan Royals, Perth Scorchers, Lions and Otago.

Key players
In Malinga's absence, the credence on Harbhajan Singh will increase. Harbhajan looked a different bowler in IPL 2013, flighting the ball a lot more, bowling quick topspinners. He finished with 24 wickets at a miserly economy of 6.51. Harbhajan, however, was not given a lifeline by the selectors, at least in the India A one-day squad featuring in the ongoing series against West Indies A. The Champions League is another chance for him to make a comeback, with the home season fast approaching.

Malinga has carried the seam attack for long, but Mumbai will have to cope without him in this edition. Mitchell Johnson bowled with fire and will be expected to fill Malinga's role. Besides Johnson, they don't have too many seam options. Abu Nechim and Rishi Dhawan are the only Indian seamers, while Nathan Coulter-Nile has limited international experience. The question, though, is whether they can afford to play two international seamers in the line-up, with the cap on foreign players at four.

Surprise package
The hyped Tendulkar-Ponting combine flopped at the top, causing the management to leave out Ponting. Dwayne Smith replaced him as opener and the West Indian made the position his own. In 13 games he scored 418 runs. Often guilty of throwing his wicket away after getting a start, Smith batted more responsibly and with greater consistency, scoring four fifties. His 62 in the second qualifier helped Mumbai progress to the final.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 21, 2013, 14:06 GMT

    i miss u malinga

  • Dummy4 on September 21, 2013, 14:03 GMT

    Probaby If you would have asked this question at the beginning of the Ipl this year.. then the question would be certainly yes ... But now after the Ipl when Mumbai has got a new bowler( Mitchell Johnson) who is winning matches for them & considering malinga's current form, it won't affect them much ... But still there will be a loss as the word malinga is itself enough to scare the batsmen..

  • Prashant on September 20, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    My Playing Should be:- sachin, smith, kartik, sharma, rayudu, pollard, maxwell, harbhajan, ojha, johnson, nechim/ dhwal kulkarni

  • Dummy4 on September 20, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    'The question, though, is whether they can afford to play two international seamers in the line-up, with the cap on foreign players at four.'

    Really? Did they not do it throughout this season?

  • Dummy4 on September 20, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    One little questionmark is arising here for MI thin tank about Sachin. In IPL Rohit played in middle order and MI opened with Sachin & Smith. Now we all now Rohit has emerged himself as a promising opening batsman since CT. Scoring runs consistentely at no 1 position. So MI now think about there opening combination. As far as MI team advantage concerns no doubt Rohit should open. But then who will shift to middle order ? Smith is too prooved nice opening batsman for MI in IPL as he scores with fast strike rate. If we think about Sachin for middle order, practically it will be disastrous for MI as now Sachin cant go for huge sixes which needs to be at that position. In short if MI wants Sachin in playing 11 Sachin has to be at opening position, then Smith has to sacrifise his position which again will not be going in favour of MI. MI and Rohit should think about it. I think with current situation Rohit will prefer middle order to make things easy. All the best MI & Rohit.

  • Lalith on September 20, 2013, 9:53 GMT

    @Raj Laxman, has mentioned that Malinga is an ordinary bowler if he cannot bowl yorkers and slower bowls. Yes everybody agrees. That is why he is a great bowler He mastered yorker and slower delivery or bouncer, so that he can deceive the batsman. That is the difference between a great bowler and an ordinary bowler. Otherwise we need to get ICC to bring a rule to make "No ball" yorkers, slower deliveries or bumpers.

  • Dummy4 on September 20, 2013, 9:39 GMT

    Mumbai will miss malinga for sure & its upto mtchell johnson 2 lead the pack. As for sachin, it would be hard for him 2 make it to the playing eleven with smith & tare gelling so well. But as u know when it comes to sachin, he reigns supreme & nobody dare drop him lest he's injured.i think absence of malinga may open up oppurtunity for maxwell/counternile. i would still bench ponting & sachin. As for indian seamers dhawal kulkarni/dhawan stand a chance to play in the first eleven.

  • GAURAV on September 20, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    No it will not affect. In fact it will boost their chances in the tournament, Also a young bowler with good traditional action will be seen on TV which is good for youngsters than watching a sri lankan bowler with unethical action.

  • Naresh on September 20, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    Just wondering what is going on between Sri Lankan internationals players and their franchise - Malinga and Sangakara not playing?

  • Ravi on September 20, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    "Abu Nechim and Rishi Dhawan are the only Indian seamers"..Dhawal kulkarni is a better bowler than rishi or abu ..why is he not mentioned in this article ? is he unfit ?