New Delhi: Mumbai Indians have plenty of star power in their ranks to dazzle the third edition of Champions League Twenty 20, starting September 23.
Sachin Tendulkar may not be part of their setup this time around, thanks to flare-up of a toe injury, which could leave a big void to be filled by other big names. And going through the squad sheet, the gaze fixes on the following four names who could turn out to be the aces among Mumbai's cards.
Lasith Malinga: The slinger from Sri Lanka has mesmerised the cricketing world with his special skill of bowling toe-crushing yorkers at will. He has been the wrecker-in-chief for Mumbai Indians and has invariably disturbed the timber of opposition's top order.
A file photo of Mumbai Indians' batsman Kieron Pollard. (AP Photo)
Recently retired from Test cricket, Malinga has now confirmed himself as the limited-overs specialist. In August 2011, he also became the first man to take three ODI hat-tricks when he bowled Sri Lanka to victory in the fifth ODI of the recently concluded series against Australia at home.
Besides getting early wickets, Malinga's block-hole bowling in the death overs saves crucial runs for Mumbai, who will hope the Sri Lankan continues to spell his magic once the tournament kicks off.
Kieron Pollard: He was the most expensive player in IPL-3 and was one of the four players retained by Mumbai Indians before the auctions for the league's next three seasons. And Mumbai have been a far better side with the giant West Indian's all-round capabilities.
A ferocious hitter of the ball, Pollard played the inaugural edition of CLT20 for Trinidad & Tobago and was instrumental in taking them to the final. But this time around, Pollard will train guns against the Caribbean island as a key member of the Mumbai squad, especially in the likely absence of Sachin Tendulkar.
He has orchestrated many victories for Mumbai, especially lower down the order, and has brought climbing asking rates plummeting down with his blistering strokeplay. MI will hope he continues to inflict similar damage to their opponents in the Champions League.
Davy Jacobs: Though captain of the Warriors in South Africa's domestic competition, Davy Jacobs will wear the blue of Mumbai Indians. Warriors are also part of this edition of the Champions League and will rue the loss that will be Mumbai's gain.
Jacobs can be banked upon for his no holds barred batting and clean wicketkeeping. He opened for Mumbai in the IPL and should hold onto that opening spot after useful contributions in the IPL. In fact, in Tendulkar's absence, he will have to play an even greater role to get his team off to fliers.
Even if Mumbai ask Rayudu to keep, Jacobs is a more than agile fielder, as are most of the South African players, and can save that extra run which is crucial in the game's ultra-limited format.
Ambati Rayudu: If IPL-3 saw the emergence of this young Indian talent, IPL-4 firmly confirmed him as the leader of India's young crop of batsmen. Unfortunately though, he hasn’t yet donned the India team jersey, but that may work as an incentive rather than a deterrent for Rayudu to do well.
The former India Under-19 captain, who played in the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) for two years, was allowed a wayback into India's domestic setup and hit the right notes straight away. Besides his ability to hit the ball long and hard, the right-hander is more than a makeshift wicketkeeper, which provides the Mumbai Indians skipper a chance to play an extra batsman or bowler.
And with the tournament taking place in India, Rayudu's experience and consistency on the home tracks could be one of the trump cards for Mumbai in this Champions League.