Former Mumbai Indians mentor Anil Kumble believes his side will miss the services of spin veteran Harbhajan Singh and signalled that that the onus would be on all-rounder Krunal Pandya to lead the spin department in the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League.

Harbhajan will be playing for Chennai Super Kings this time after ten memorable seasons with the reigning champions. Title holders Mumbai will clash with Chennai at the Wankhede Stadium in their tournament opener. “Krunal Pandya is a really good all-rounder, but he will have to lead the spinners now,” Kumble said. “They have Rahul (Chahar) as a leg spinner, but again an unknown youngster. The experience of someone like Bhajji (Harbhajan) during those four overs and also what he brings with the bat as well [will be missed].... but having said that, they have the other bases covered.”

India’s leading wicket taker in Tests also believes that Bangladesh pacer Muztafizur Rahim and India’s Jasprit Bumrah will play a crucial role in the death overs for Mumbai. “The Mumbai Indians have got Mustafizur Rahim, so that he can play that role of bowling in the death overs. They also have (Jasprit) Bumrah, who has grown leaps and bounds – he is the go-to bowler for the team,” said Kumble when asked whether Mumbai will also miss the services of Lasith Malinga, who is now their bowling mentor.

U-19 players in focus

Kumble also opined that players from India’s successful U-19 team would be under sharp focus during the IPL, which has proved to be a great platform for the youngsters to get national recognition and take a step closer to the senior national team. “The U 19 boys would certainly be in focus. Prithvi Shaw, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, all of them would be certainly in focus. It will be a big opportunity for these youngsters to showcase their talent.”

“Hardik Pandya, the Bumrahs, all have come through the IPL; it is an opportunity for everyone. We know Shreyas Iyer – no matter how good his domestic performances were, as soon as he had a good IPL performance, people suddenly start noticing it. So everyone in domestic cricket understand that IPL is a great platform for them to showcase their talent and possibly one step closer to making it to the Indian team. But the U-19 boys who did well in the World Cup, would be under sharp focus,” Kumble added.