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Finishing off close matches will be key to Mumbai Indians' progress

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Do Mumbai Indians have the most balanced squad? (10:24)

Sanjay Manjrekar and Brad Hodge discuss the side's strengths and weaknesses, and whether Malinga and Yuvraj will get a game this season (10:24)

Where they finished in 2018

It was yet another season where Mumbai Indians left their bid to qualify for the playoffs till late, but couldn't quite produce the magic at the end and finished fifth.

Strengths

For the last few seasons, Mumbai have started with one of the best squads, but they have almost always started slowly and then needed to end the league stage in a dramatic way to try and make the top four - no wonder they now have a Netflix documentary on the team.

Their disappointing run last season was down to their top players not being in form and their inability to finish off the close matches.

Mumbai's strength is their batting, which has become even stronger this time with the arrival of Quinton de Kock. Rohit Sharma, Evin Lewis, last season's star Suryakumar Yadav, and allounders Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya are all match-winners. They have also picked up Yuvraj Singh, but it will be interesting to see how they use him.

Their bowling plans have revolved around Jasprit Bumrah. There's also Lasith Malinga, back bowling at the highest level, along with Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan and Jason Behrendorff. Bumrah, one of the best all-format bowlers in the game, had a smart economy rate of 5.47 last season, second only to Lungi Ngidi's 3.77. He took 13 wickets in the death overs in 2018, the joint-highest with Andrew Tye. He will be the bowling key for Mumbai again.

With plenty of muscle and arsenal in their squad, all Mumbai need to do is click from the start and not play catch-up at the end of the league stage. It has worked a few times, but won't each time.

Weaknesses

In 2018, Mumbai's weaknesses were all on show on the field. They over-relied on their stars Rohit, Bumrah, the Pandya brothers and Pollard. They started poorly by winning only two of their first seven matches. They lost six games in the last over. And in what Rohit later called a "mixed" season, they didn't impress too many people.

Last season, they had only one batsman (Suryakumar) among the top 15 run-scorers, and Rohit had his worst IPL season overall. This time, also with the World Cup around the corner, Rohit will be desperate to lead with the bat.

Mumbai will also need more from the middle order, as Hardik and Pollard couldn't get going when it mattered the most last season. Pollard's form with Peshawar Zalmi should bode well for them but Hardik's injury-ridden time since September 2018 will mean he may not be the force he usually is on the field.

Their biggest concern might be the spin department. Last season they unleashed Mayank Markande in the tournament opener but a year on, he is not an unknown entity anymore. Apart from Krunal Pandya, their other spin options are Jayant Yadav and youngsters Rahul Chahar and Anukul Roy. If the need arises to fall back on a reliable spin option, Mumbai might feel the lack of depth.

Squad

The overseas question

Mumbai are spoilt for choice here, especially in the pace line-up, with Behrendorff, McClenaghan, Milne and Malinga. If Pollard doesn't click, there is a replacement option in Ben Cutting. If they want two overseas quicks in the XI, they can leave out de Kock for Ishan Kishan. Even otherwise, only one out of McClenaghan and Behrendorff and Milne might play at a time and Malinga can become the leader whenever Bumrah is rested with the World Cup in mind.

Availability

Mumbai biggest lost ahead of the World Cup preparations will be de Kock but it isn't clear yet when he's likely to leave India, as Cricket South Africa hasn't finalised a date yet. It will be crucial they don't exhaust Bumrah, though. Who will replace him will be key because Barinder Sran is the only other known Indian quick in the squad, unless they want to try Rasikh Salam or Pankaj Jaiswal. Sran has more experience than them but is coming in on the back of a poor run in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

The best XI

1 Suryakumar Yadav, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Rohit Sharma (capt), 4 Yuvraj Singh/Ishan Kishan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Mitchell McClenaghan/Jason Behrendorff, 9 Mayank Markande, 10 Lasith Malinga/Adam Milne, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Will they make the playoffs?

Given the squad and how desperate they must be after last year's disappointment, the answer is yes. And they know how to get there, that's been known over the years.

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