Jasprit Bumrah made his IPL debut in 2013 and, for the first time since, Mumbai Indians will be playing an entire season without him. To fill that massive gap, apart from making use of the new Impact Player rule, Mumbai plan to unleash a couple of young bowlers and their head coach Mark Boucher said their bowling attack will be their “surprise package”.
“Losing Bumrah has been a big loss for us, I’ll be honest with that,” Boucher said in Mumbai on Wednesday. “But by losing a player sometimes you get opportunity. The way Mumbai Indians have selected their squads over the last few years has been…how you select your playing XI and then your back-up XI and then you invest in a couple of youngsters for the future. It’s now time for those youngsters to show up and basically get the opportunities.
“For me, the big thing about this season for our bowling line-up is we have got experience, but we’ve got one or two little spaces for couple of the juniors to come through and showcase their skills. I’m looking forward to seeing them. The IPL is a massive event and it’s going to be a great opportunity for some of our young boys to really show up. We’ve got some great variation in our bowling attack; I think our batting is very very strong. But our bowling is almost going to be a surprise package.”
Mumbai are without Bumrah and Jhye Richardson this season and will name at least one replacement in the next couple of days, captain Rohit Sharma said. Rohit also said they had zeroed in on nine-ten players for the final XI and hinted the couple of vacant spots could be taken by players who haven’t played the IPL before. Mumbai play their first game on April 2 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
“We’ve got a couple of guys who can do that job for us which Bumrah used to do. We’ll keep an eye on that and hopefully whatever space Bumrah was in, the other guys can come in and do the job for us.”
“Leading into that first game guys pretty much know what we are expecting out of them but the last thing I want to do is put too much pressure on them,” Rohit said. “I think it won’t be fair, especially the guys who have not played IPL before. And there are a few guys in our squad who have not played IPL before. But if they get an opportunity to play, my job is to keep it very simple with them, and make sure that how they play their first-class game for their state, what they do in Ranji Trophies, in club cricket, try and replicate the same in IPL as well.
“We’ve got a couple of guys who can do that job for us which Bumrah used to do. We’ll keep an eye on that and hopefully whatever space Bumrah was in, the other guys can come in and do the job for us. And wherever those guys have played, they’ve done that job for that particular team.”
Among the uncapped fast-bowling options, Mumbai have two left-arm quicks in Arshad Khan (from Madhya Pradesh) and Arjun Tendulkar, and Uttarakhand’s Akash Madhwal. Boucher pointed out that Arjun joined the squad with a niggle, and they will have a better idea of his fitness after watching him in a practice game on Wednesday night.
“He’s been playing quite a bit of cricket in the last six months as a bowler, it’s been very good for him,” Boucher said. “If we can have him available for selection, it will be very good for us.”
Jofra Archer was bought by Mumbai Indians before the 2022 auction•Getty Images
Rohit could be rested for one or two games; focus on Jofra Archer
Coming into the IPL after playing back-to-back home series against Sri Lanka (T20Is and ODIs), New Zealand (ODIs), and Australia (Tests and ODIs), Rohit will now lead Mumbai and then head to England for the World Test Championship final starting June 7, just 10 days after the IPL final in Ahmedabad. Boucher had “no problem” in Rohit resting for one or two games, if the requirement arose. Who will lead Mumbai in that case is as yet unknown because they haven’t officially named a vice-captain.
“He’s the captain, hopefully he gets into good sort of form and hopefully he doesn’t want to rest,” Boucher said. “We’ll adapt to whatever the situation is. If I can get the best out of him as a captain and as a player, it’ll be great. If it means that he’s going to rest one or two games, then I’ll do that, absolutely. Not a problem.”
In terms of runs scored and average, Rohit had his worst IPL season last year when he managed only 268 runs at 19.14, and his strike rate of 120.17 was also his second-worst in his 15-year IPL career, second only to 114.97 in 2009. It was also the first time Rohit didn’t score a half-century in an IPL season.
Boucher also said they will rest a couple of international players who have had a busy schedule in the recent past. One such player to watch out for could be Jofra Archer, who was bought by Mumbai before the 2022 auction and resumed playing competitive cricket in January this year after a long injury layoff that kept him away from international cricket since March 2021. Since he returned to the field, Archer has featured in SA20 for MI Cape Town (taking 10 wickets in six games), played two ODIs each against South Africa and Bangladesh for a combined 12 wickets, followed by three T20Is in Bangladesh.
Archer too will play Mumbai’s warm-up game on Wednesday night which the coaches will watch from the sidelines.
“Jofra has come off a major injury and he’s been playing a lot of cricket of late which is good,” Boucher said. “He’s in a good space at the moment, he’s really ready to get out there and perform. Hopefully he can kickstart the IPL with a bang.”
Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo