Mumbai Indians took an unusually long time to hit the ground running and make its presence felt in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Right from the day the Forbes-listed multi-billionaire Mukesh Ambani decided to shell out $111.9 million for 10 years to own the Mumbai-city team in the league in January 2008, the men in blue with flashy golden stripes depicting the iconic Bandra-Worli Sea Link dithered and withered before finding their feet in the intense, dynamic and merry-making world of Twenty20 cricket.
Hopes of a blockbuster start from Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya dissipated straightaway with the champion Indian laid low by a nagging hamstring and missing out the first seven matches.
The right-left combination exploded into action as soon as Tendulkar made a delayed debut in the league, but the damage had already been done with the costliest team losing four straight matches before winning half a dozen on the trot.
Moreover the acting captain Harbhajan Singh was involved in a physical assault with S.Sreesanth after the MI versus Kings XI Punjab match at Mohali and was banned after he had played the third match.
The IPL season 2 in South Africa turned out to be ordinary and forgettable for Tendulkar's team. The Sri Lankan left-hander, Jayasuriya, bought at $975,000, made only 221 in 12 matches as against an impressive 514 from 14 matches in the inaugural season.
Jayasuriya played 30 matches in three seasons, figured in 15 winning matches and struck big blows in ten matches with Tendulkar (five times 50 plus partnerships and five times between 30 and 40), but the franchisee's belief that these two would be enough to influence a Twenty20 match did not take place.
In the second auction at Goa in 2009, MI's think tank decided to make a big-buy in South African Jean Paul Duminy for $950,000.
But it was before season 3, when the IPL returned to India that the Mumbai franchise hit the headlines again winning West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard at $750,000, but reports said that the MI paid over $2 million when the silent tie-break rule was applied with three more franchises having entered the fray.
Meanwhile MI made a few more changes; it brought in Shaun Pollock as mentor and also engaged Jonty Rhodes from the second season.
Tendulkar was as usual a big draw; he made 618 runs in 15 matches in the third season and 553 in the fourth, but the spotlight also turned on the Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga, Pollard and Harbhajan, who together accounted for 45 wickets (in 2010) and 52 wickets (in 2011).
As a further step to sustain its showing in the IPL, MI has made strategic selections for season 5. It was relying heavily on Harbhajan to man the spin department; this year it will have left-arm spinners Pragyan Ojha and South African Robin Petersen.
Besides MI has two young spinners in leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and 17-year-old left-arm unorthodox Kuldeep Yadav.
MI has also selected Dinesh Karthik to make sure that Ambati Rayudu is deployed on the outfield. It did not waste time to pick South African Richard Levi, who scored the fastest Twenty20 century (100 off 45 balls and 117 not out off 51 balls) against New Zealand at Seddon Park, Hamilton in February.
MI is happy that Pollard would join the team at Chennai for the IPL 5 season. “He has played some great cricket over the last season, especially against Australia in recent times.
“He has been striking the ball very well. He needs to be really confident because of the time he comes in to bat.
“One is asking a lot from a guy who's walking in the 16th or 17th over and expect him to hit the ball out of the ground from ball No. 1.
“We need him to finish games and certainly he's strong at the bottom of the innings. But a player in that position needs to be very confident. Hopefully that's what he is going to bring into the MI team after his success against Australia,'' said Rhodes.
After a dismal campaign in the first two seasons, MI has looked the part in the next two. It has made some shrewd selections for the fifth by picking Herschelle Gibbs, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Rudra Pratap Singh, Rahul Shukla, Levi and Peterson.
It has a large support staff including Mike Horn, the South African-born explorer who spent valuable time with the ICC World Cup winning Indian team exactly a year ago with his motivational speeches.
But all said and done, MI will look upon Tendulkar (1723 runs) and Malinga (61 wickets) to blast runs and the wickets. MI has so far played 59 IPL matches, won 33 and lost 26.
Mumbai Indians won the Champions League T20 last year without Tendulkar.
The squad: Sachin Tendulkar (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Rohit Sharma, Richard Levi, Tirumalasetti Suman, Sujit Nayak, Apoorv Wankhade, Aiden Blizzard, Jaydev Shah, Rahul Shukla, Suryakumar Yadav, Amitoze Singh, Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga, Munaf Patel, Clint McKay, Rudra Pratap Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Robin Peterson, Pragyan Ojha, Pawan Suyal, Abu Nechim, Dhawal Kulkarni, Yuzvendra Chahal, James Franklin, Thisara Perera, Kieron Pollard, Davy Jacobs, Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu, Sushant Marathe, Aditya Tare and Kuldeep Yadav.