While the original expectation was that the Indian Premier League’s 14th edition would be preceded by a mega auction, franchises are set for another short-term recruitment drive. With no new teams added to the league, the eight existing franchises were given the chance to retain the bulk of their squad. And so, a maximum of 61 slots spread across teams are to be filled up during the IPL 2021 auction, to be held in Chennai. The tournament is expected to be played in India, starting from April. You can read about rest of the teams here.
How do you improve perfection? Mumbai Indians have a squad that is so thoughtfully put together that the other eight franchises would give up their entire purse to be able to have the depth the five-time champions possess. When there was murmurs about a mega auction and new teams, the question that most had was: would it not be unfair for MI to dismantle a squad that put forth a masterclass over the course of last season on how to do T20 cricket right.
But that is a moot point for a couple of reasons. MI, of course, did not have to rebuild because of a bigger auction but more importantly, the franchise always finds a way to improve off-season. Every sporting team that ever was a dynasty, would have signature traits: marquee players at the core, utility players with well-defined roles and an addition or two at every possible chance to improve from the previous season so that there is no stagnation.
MI, having won two titles on the trot, will certainly look to reinforce that status by going for a historic three-peat. And that is why they have once again shown signs of being ruthless in the market.
Results in last three seasons
|Season||League stage finish||Playoff result|
By releasing players like Nathan Coulter Nile and James Pattinson — two players who rotated for one overseas bowler slot and did pretty well when called upon — find themselves released and that is a clear sign that the overseas bowler slot (especially one that can operate in any of three phases of a T20 innings) is one that MI want to improve on. Lasith Malinga’s announcement of retirement means there is another slot open for a death bowling specialist too, should they want to seek support for Jasprit Bumrah and keep Trent Boult operating in the powerplay where he was effective in 2020.
Players released after IPL 2020: Prince Balwant Rai, Digvijay Deshmukh, Lasith Malinga, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson, Sherfane Rutherford, Mitchell McCleneghan
Player traded in/out: None
There have no off-season trades from MI this time around and that would mean they are fully focussed on playing the market in the auction. The think-tank does not usually hesitate to go beyond reasonable price for a player if they think he could do the role in the short term.
As for the squad itself, there are hardly any weaknesses across the board. It has been pointed out over the last couple of seasons that their spin department is light but they have found a way to make it work, even playing the match-up card when they needed to by employing Jayant Yadav instead of Rahul Chahar. If anything, that would be the area they would look to strengthen too.
It is worth noting that with South Africa playing an international home series against Pakistan till April 16, Quinton de Kock might miss the early part of IPL due to whatever bubble regulations are put in place. In that sense, the franchise did the right thing by retaining Chris Lynn to make sure they have a high quality back-up option should they need (while Ishan Kishan also showed he can hold his own as an opener during IPL 2020).
MI squad for IPL 2021 ahead of auction
|Rohit Sharma||Jasprit Bumrah||Quinton de Kock||Hardik Pandya|
|Suryakumar Yadav||Jayant Yadav||Ishan Kishan||Krunal Pandya|
|Chris Lynn||Rahul Chahar||Aditya Tare||Kieron Pollard|
|Saurabh Tiwary||Trent Boult||Anukul Roy|
|Anmolpreet Singh||Dhawal Kulkarni|
There are not enough funds remaining for MI to splash the cash on more than one marquee overseas player despite having four slots to fill.
Salary cap remaining: Rs 15.35 crores
Overall slots remaining: 7
Overseas slots remaining: 4
Areas to target
- Overseas pacer(s)
- Indian spinner
- Backup overseas allrounder
- Backup Indian pacer
At this stage, the first XI (plus a couple of other options) for MI is almost an automatic selection except for an overseas pacer. That is exactly where the franchise’s attention would be, and it should not come as a surprise if they use a huge percentage of their Rs 15.35 crores on one player who will walk into the XI and improve them.
The quality is there in the auction pool too, and that is not always the case, and that is perhaps why there was no trades. In Jhye Richardson, Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett, there are three good premium options, while Sheldon Cottrell could be the left-arm pacer as a back-up to Boult.
Their batting doesn’t really need the depth, but Chris Morris could be a good addition at the right price if they can add one of the aforementioned names with funds to spare. Kyle Jamieson would also fit that bill. Kieron Pollard is showing no signs of slowing down in this format but he is still the only overseas allrounder on the roster and a back-up would not be out of place.
The remaining slots would then be what MI are good at: spotting uncapped talent and filling out the squad. The spin department, as said above, could use a boost if MI do not get their identified pace targets and have funds to spare. With Harbhajan Singh available, a return to his old franchise might work out well for both parties.
And finally, given Jasprit Bumrah’s workload since the last IPL, MI could really use a quality Indian pace option in the squad. In the dead rubber during IPL 2020, Dhawal Kulkarni played his solitary match but that is an area where Mumbai will look to improve the quality of the second option.
IPL 2021: Purse & squad details before auction
|Franchise||Purse remaining (Rs crores)||Available Slots||Overseas Slots|
The auction will be telecast on Star Sports Network on 18 February from 3 pm IST.