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They are owned by the richest Indian in the world. They are led by the best cricketer of this generation. They have one of the best fast bowlers in their ranks. But Mumbai Indians, despite their high profile, failed to reach the knockout phase in the IPL's two editions thus far.

An array of reasons can be cited behind for their struggle: In the first season, Mumbai did well to hold together after the Harbhajan Singh slapping incident. But what hurt them the most was the absence of Sachin Tendulkar from the first half of the tournament due to injury. There was also plenty of chopping and changing of the line-ups, and the inexperience of the domestic players was apparent on more than one occasion despite Tendulkar and Shaun Pollock's best efforts to inspire the team through their leadership.

In 2009, Zaheer Khan was bought from Royal Challengers Bangalore, adding strength to the bowling department. Zaheer also filled the spot vacated by Pollock, who took up the role of mentor. Jonty Rhodes added vitality to the training sessions with his agility and reflexes. JP Duminy was signed up for a whopping US$950,000 after his heroics in Australia, but flattered to deceive on home soil, unable to finish off games or give that final thrust to innings when left on his own. It did not help that Zaheer injured himself in the field midway through the tournament, and Sanath Jayasuriya failed to provide the usual fireworks in the beginning. Mumbai ended on the second rung from the bottom.

But things look more positive the third time around. Tendulkar is in tremendous form with the bat and even if he is yet not a formidable batsman in Twenty20 cricket, the defining innings doesn't seem far. Mumbai's middle order is bolstered by the presence of the Trinidad pair of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, both supremely athletic allrounders having the ability to win games on their own. Zaheer is currently among the most consistent fast bowlers and if he is well backed-up by Lasith Malinga, with Jayasuriya firing at the top with Tendulkar, Mumbai can bounce back.

The buzz

The blue on the jersey has been shaded to a darker tone. The inspiration behind the new design was the state-of-the-art Bandra-Worli sea-link, which connects the northern suburbs to south of Mumbai. The idea was to create a design that would not only be new, but also resemble the enterprise and growth of Mumbai - the golden stripes across the bust of the shirt depicts the two pillars of the sea-link and the blue is the shade of the Arabian sea. The team has also found support from sponsors, whose count has increased to 14, five more than last year.

Another first is the sale of wrist bands in the Mumbai colours, autographed by Tendulkar, the proceeds of which will be passed over to provide education for underprivileged kids supported by five NGOs.

New faces

Mumbai stamped their authority as the richest franchise in the League, bagging Kieron Pollard in the silent tie-breaker for an undisclosed sum, rumoured to be as high as that of the richest players in the IPL. Robin Singh leads a new coaching set-up, with Paras Mhambrey as his deputy. The pair did not waste time in picking few of the best players from the unofficial Indian Cricket League - Ambati Rayudu and R Sateesh, Rahul Shukla, Ishan Malhotra, Ali Murtaza, and Aditya Tare have been fast-tracked into the primary squad.

Watch out for

Sachin Tendulkar. He is in stupendous form and will be hungry to prove his worth in a format he hasn't dominated.

Missing in action

The Caribbean pair of Bravo and Pollard would be absent in the opener against Rajasthan Royals, for they will be wrapping up the ODI series against Zimbabwe, which ends on March 14.


Pollard can provide the firepower lower down the order, something Mumbai expected from Duminy last year


A formidable batting order: Tendulkar, Jayasuriya, Shikar Dhawan, Bravo, Pollard and Abhishek Nayar.


Barring Zaheer , the rest of the fast bowling department, including Malinga, have been inconsistent. But Zaheer, who has been the Indian bowling captain for the last two years, has the ability to hold the attack together, and along with Harbhajan in the middle overs, can lead the rest of the pack in the right direction.

IPL 2009 - the key figures

Final position: Seventh

Top scorer: JP Duminy with 372 runs at 41.33 and strike-rate of 114.46

Top wicket-taker: 18 wickets at 17.33 and economy-rate of 6.33

Best result: Eight-wicket win over Punjab

Worst result: Nine-wicket defeat to Bangalore

Highest team score: 187 for 6 v Kolkata

Lowest team score: 116 v Delhi

Prediction for 2010

Mumbai have the ability to make the semi-finals, but a return to the spot they ended at in 2008 is more realistic.

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