(Reuters) – Mumbai Indians have assembled a side that looks even stronger than their back-to-back title-winning teams, with only Delhi Daredevils and Hyderabad Sunrisers seemingly capable of denying the third straight crown of the Indian Premier League (IPL) to them.
Mumbai are having the silver spin tournament rolling in Chennai today, just four months after claiming their second title in a row, with a match against Royal Challengers Bangalore, led by India captain Virat Kohli.
Captain Rohit Sharma heads Mumbai’s batting lineup full of explosive hits including Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav, who made India’s impressive debut in the recent Twenty20 series against England.
Power hitters Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya are adept at launching a late attack, while Trent Boult’s powerplay skills and Jasprit Bumrah’s death mastery mean they lack real bowling woe either.
Mumbai are so dominant that they have won five of the last eight titles and former England captain Michael Vaughan has said that this side could be even better than India’s Twenty20 team. South Africa’s fast-paced Dale Steyn was undoubtedly Mumbai again.
“I have them as number one,” he told www.espncricinfo.com this week. “I’m going with them winning it again.”
David Warner led Hyderabad to their IPL title before getting married in 2016 but Australia’s noisy hamstring injury remains a concern. Hyderabad also lack firepower in their lower order, though they have a powerful bowling attack that includes swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Afghanistan spin javelin head Rashid Khan.
Delhi have had to change their captain after Shreyas Iyer, who led them to his final pre-wedding final last year, was ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury.
At 23, Rishabh Pant will be the IPL’s youngest captain this year but Delhi head coach Ricky Ponting has high hopes for the stumper batsman.
“I think an extra responsibility is going to sit really well with him,” said the former Australian captain.
“We will help him through it, but honestly, I don’t think he will need much help at all.”
Bangalore, perennial underachievers of the tournament, have added Glenn Maxwell from Australia to the batting order but their bowling over death remains a concern.
England captain Eoin Morgan will lead the Kolkata Knight Riders’ quest for a third title but Chennai Super Kings, who finished second from bottom last year, may find it difficult again.
The three-time champions failed to make the playoff for the first time last year and little game time got their core of aging players, including captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, into the tournament this year.