Already regarded as the world’s richest and most successful Twenty20 cricket team, the Mumbai Indians will now attempt to underline their status by claiming their first back-to-back titles in the Indian Premier League.
Led by senior Indian batsman Rohit Sharma and owned by Nita Ambani — wife of India’s richest man, Reliance Industries billionaire Mukesh Ambani — Mumbai have won an unsurpassed four IPL titles.
So far they have been unable to match the Chennai Super Kings’ feat of 2010 and 2011 by winning the world’s most lucrative T20 league twice in a row.
But Mumbai, who open the coronavirus-delayed IPL season against the Super Kings in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, head into the tournament as the bookies’ favourites for a fifth trophy.
Mumbai’s financial clout is formidable. Ambani, who bought the franchise for more than $100 million in 2008, has been rated by Forbes as the world’s second richest sports team owner behind former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, who owns the Los Angeles Clippers.
According to an Economic Times estimate, the Indians are worth $115 million, the highest among the eight IPL franchises.
The team has an impeccable playing pedigree too. Their founding captain was the now retired Sachin Tendulkar, the record-breaking batsman who is worshipped by Indian fans. Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting is another ex-skipper.
– ‘Absolute greats’ –
But it was only when Sharma was appointed captain in 2013, after Ponting stepped down due to loss of form, that the team became a force to be reckoned with.
The 33-year-old star batsman has led by example, scoring 3,728 runs since joining Mumbai in 2011 and captaining the team to IPL trophies in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Sri Lankan legend Mahela Jayawardene is the coach, while West Indian big-hitter Kieron Pollard and India quick Jasprit Bumrah add power to the team.
Australia paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile, part of the Indians’ first title win in 2013, returns this season after being snapped up for $1.12 million in the December auctions.
“It’s good to come back to the most successful T20 franchise of the world,” said Coulter-Nile.
“Obviously the team I was involved with then was filled with absolute greats. Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Rohit Sharma.
“And to come back to see this team now developing those sort of greats again. Rohit Sharma is a great in himself. Bumrah, best death bowler in the world.”
However, the loss of pace ace Lasith Malinga earlier this month was a big blow, after the veteran Sri Lankan opted out of the tournament to be with his family.
But despite the loss of Malinga, the IPL’s highest wicket-taker with 170 scalps in 122 matches, Mumbai’s fans still expect their team to come home with the trophy.
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