Mumbai Indians’ captain Rohit Sharma (left) speaks as coach Mark Boucher watches during a news conference in Mumbai. Agence France-Presse
Mumbai Indians, armed with big-money signing Cameron Green, will bid for a record-extending sixth title when the Indian Premier League (IPL) starts on Friday, in what could be Chennai veteran MS Dhoni’s swansong.
The 16th edition also returns to its pre-Covid glory days, with 74 matches scheduled at 12 venues over eight weeks.
In the opener at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, defending champions Gujarat Titans will play Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings.
England all-rounder Sam Curran returns to Punjab Kings after being bought for $2.23 million, making him the most expensive IPL player ever.
Green, 1.98 metres (6 feet and 6 inches) tall, joined IPL’s most successful outfit Mumbai after he became the second-most expensive buy at $2.11 million in the December auction.
India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin called Green a “once-in-a-generation” cricketer after the batting all-rounder hit his maiden Test hundred in India earlier this month.
“I think he’s a fantastic player. Just the raw materials for a person as tall as him, lovely levers, good batting sense, can bowl and really hit the deck well, moves pretty well on the field,” Ashwin said.
Mumbai, led by India captain Rohit Sharma, will be without injured pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah but have been boosted by the return of England fast bowler Jofra Archer, who missed last season due to injury.
Rohit said that a replacement for injured Bumrah will be decided by the team in the next few days.
Bumrah has been out of action since September 2022 due to a recurring back injury and underwent a surgery earlier this month. It will be the first time in a decade that Bumrah will not be a part of the IPL.
“Regarding Bumrah’s replacement, we’ve been discussing a few options. Hopefully, we can close it down in the next couple of days and then we see how we will go about it,” Rohit said in the pre-season press conference.
“We have been talking about Bumrah. He is a big miss. Jasprit Bumrah’s role was quite important for Mumbai Indians, it’s a big shoe to fill. But it gives someone else an opportunity for the youngsters in the team to showcase their talent.
“We have a couple of guys who have been with this team for the last few years. They are very much ready to take the centrestage and hopefully can blood in some youngsters,” he added.
With no Bumrah and Jhye Richardson, Mumbai’s fast-bowling stocks are thin. But the presence of England pacer Jofra Archer is something which has delighted Rohit. Archer had missed last year’s season due to elbow and back injuries.
“Jofra was always part of this team. Last year, he was, but was injured. We all know the quality he has. But we will sadly miss Bumrah this season. But again, a lot of opportunities are up for grabs, and if someone’s missing out, then someone can fill in that place,” Mumbai Indians skipper said.
“We do understand how big a miss Bumrah is, but a lot of younger players will get their opportunity and this is the platform for all the young players to come out and express themselves,” he added.
Chennai are not far behind Mumbai with four titles — and are five-time runners-up — and Dhoni’s towering presence as wicketkeeper-batsman and captain has been key.
Dhoni, 41, remains a huge star more than two years after his international retirement.
He said he owed a “thank you” to his Chennai fans after last year’s IPL, which was held in just two cities in the group stage.
Dhoni apart, the team’s success will depend on all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali and England Test skipper Ben Stokes, who was bought by the franchise for $1.96m.
According to media reports, Stokes is also being considered as a possible successor to Dhoni as Chennai captain.
Australia’s David Warner, South Africans Aiden Markram and Faf du Plessis are the three overseas captains in this IPL.