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The Think Tank: Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore & Hyderabad

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IPL_Indian_Premier_League_CricketMumbai Indians

The primary strategic decision facing Mumbai is whether to continue with their historical preference for two overseas bowlers or whether to play just one and strengthen their problematic opening partnership. Given that their alternative Indian seam bowling options are poor, they’d be best served trying to find Rohit Sharma a partner; and if they can’t, then – only then – could they take a gamble by losing an overseas bowler to accommodate Lendl Simmons at the top.

With two overseas bowlers, Mumbai have various possible partners for Rohit, none of them obviously the right one. Given that Parthiv Patel was given plenty of opportunities last season, it might be worth giving a go to Nitish Rana, who scores at a good rate. Alternatively, picking a batsman in the middle order or an all rounder and giving any of Ambati Rayudu, Jos Buttler or even Krunal Pandya a go could work. Whichever they try, they need to give them a good run in the position. Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson should be the first choice overseas bowling pair ahead of Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee.

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Rest of Squad: Karn Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Tim Southee, Krishnappa Gowtham, Parthiv Patel, Lendl Simmons, Asela Gunaratne, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nicholas Pooran, Saurabh Tiwary, Shreyas Gopal, Siddesh Lad, Deepak Punia, Kulwant Khejroliya, Jagadeesha Suchith, Jitesh Sharma.

Rising Pune Supergiants

The injury to Ravichandran Ashwin complicates Pune’s selection considerably. Due to Ashwin’s absence, Pune have to strengthen their bowling; but with arguably the worst bowling attack in the league, that is difficult to do. They could scavenge the Indian options for a bowler: Ankit Sharma, with a sturdy IPL record could offer some control in the middle overs, or one of Jaydev Unadkat or Ishwar Pandey could provide a seam option.

Alternatively, if they felt the choices were too poor, they could leave out Faf du Plessis, whose T20 record recently isn’t great, replace him with Manoj Tiwary, and opt for all rounder Dan Christian if they feel he can bowl well enough; seamer Lockie Ferguson; or another wrist spinner in one of Adam Zampa or Imran Tahir - whichever one isn’t already on the team sheet. Five of the top six, Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Steven Smith, Ben Stokes and MS Dhoni will definitely start.

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Rest of Squad: Daniel Christian, Usman Khawaja, Imran Tahir, Manoj Tiwary, Lockie Ferguson, Ishwar Pandey, Milind Tandon, Rahul Tripathi, Baba Aparajith, Jaskaran Singh, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Saurabh Kumar, Ankush Bains, Shardul Thakur.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Lokesh Rahul’s injury opens up a position in the middle order for one of Sarfaraz Khan or Sachin Baby, while seamers Sreenath Aravind, Aniket Choudhary and Harshal Patel are likely to fight for two spots, but other than that Bangalore’s team is very settled.

With Kedar Jadhav and Lokesh Rahul adding value to Bangalore’s Indian batting stocks, there was an argument to leave out Chris Gayle, who has been struggling for form, for Samuel Badree. But with Rahul now injured there is less batting depth to account for leaving out Gayle and this idea is less persuasive. Unless one of the young batsmen, Sarfaraz or Baby, hit exceptional form and reopen the possibility of this move by themselves adding batting depth, the only way Gayle is likely to be forced from the starting XI is by Travis Head, who himself has been in poor form.  

With Kohli absent, two of Sarfaraz, Baby, Stuart Binny and Pawan Negi are likely to get a game. AB de Villiers could open in Kohli’s absence, having had success there before.

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Rest of Squad: Mandeep Singh, Adam Milne, Travis Head, Samuel Baree, Harshal Patel, Billy Stanlake, Iqbal Abdulla, Sachin Baby, Avesh Khan, Tabraiz Shamsi, Praveen Dubey.

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Hyderabad’s main issue is whether and how they can fit Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan into their team to bolster their spin bowling. How this plan unfolds is significantly dependent on the form of Hyderbad’s batsmen, primarily their middle order. If Yuvraj Singh, Deepak Hooda and Naman Ojha are making runs, then losing Moises Henriques’ top order stability for Mohammad Nabi’s faster scoring rate is a possibility. If conditions suit Henriques’ bowling more, he could still play with Ben Cutting’s lower order hitting a possibility, but only if one of Rashid Khan or Mustafizur Rahman makes way.

The security of Cutting’s batting generally will be comforting, but the prospect of Khan and Mustafizur in an attack with Ashish Nehra and Bhuvneshwar Kumar is hugely exciting. It is likely that when Mustafizur is away, the temptation of the bowler-heavy team will wane slightly, but Ben Laughlin is an able replacement and should be given a run in the side at least.

The eleventh spot in the team, the utility player at number seven, is hard to allocate. Bipul Sharma’s useful hitting might be preferable if Henriques is picked over Nabi, while the insurance policy of Tanmay Agarwal might be preferable if Nabi is picked over Henriques.

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Rest of Squad: Mohammad Siraj, Barindrer Sran, Moises Henriques, Eklavya Dwivedi, Kane Williamson, Ben Cutting, Chris Jordan, Vijay Shankar, Ben Laughlin, Abhimanyu Mithun, Bipul Sharma, Ricky Bhui, Siddarth Kaul, Pravin Tambe.

 

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Freddie Wilde is a freelance T20 journalist @fwildecricket....

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