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Mumbai will open the Indian Premier League against Pune and the defending champion’s roster looks the most balanced of the eight teams that will compete for the most coveted championship in domestic Twenty20 cricket. Most punters associate Twenty20 matches with big hits and numerous boundaries but the reality is that bowling is every bit as important as batting. Indeed, one would argue that bowling is what separates the good Twenty20 sides from the bad ones.
Indian Premier League bookmakers have installed Bangalore as the title favourite because its squad has three household names in Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. But Bangalore’s bowling stocks – it will miss Mitchell Starc – are not that of an Indian Premier League market leader. Bangalore’s batting line-up should result in it making the Indian Premier League top four but the Royal Challengers are not one’s idea of a decent futures wager, not least since Gayle’s record in domestic Twenty20 tournaments is awful.
Some bookmakers are listing Pune as the Indian Premier League championship second favourite but the Supergiants, one of the competition’s two new franchises, have splashed huge amounts of money on superstar batsmen and skimped on their bowlers. Kevin Pietersen is one of Pune’s famous names and, like Gayle, he tends to earn more headlines than wins.
There is a belief among punters who do not pay all that much attention to Twenty20 that it is a game in which any side can win on its day. There is an element of truth to that, however, generally the cream does rise to the top over the course of a tournament such as the Indian Premier League. Consequently, one is reluctant to speculate on any of the Indian Premier League outsiders with a view to laying off later simply because they are available at long odds now.
One thinks that Mumbai should be the Indian Premier League title favourite. Mumbai is the most successful of the Indian Premier League’s active teams – Chennai’s record is slightly better but it has been suspended from the competition along with Rajasthan – so the Indians have a winning culture that almost none of its opponents can boast. And Mumbai has not rested upon its laurels, going all out to secure England’s master blaster, Jos Buttler. The 25-year-old smashed 191 runs at the ICC World Twenty20, including a dozen sixes, averaging 47.75 at a strike rate of 159.16. Buttler hit a 73-ball One-Day International century for England versus South Africa and his country’s fastest-ever ton in that format, taking 46 balls to reach three figures against Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
The biggest knock on Mumbai is that they may be too reliant on a couple of veteran bowlers, Lasith Malinga and Harbhjan Singh, but at least the Indians have proven match winners with the ball and that is not something that one can say about most of their Indian Premier League rivals. Only Dwayne Bravo took more Indian Premier League wickets than Malinga last season and the West Indian played two more matches than the Sri Lankan. Malinga is injury prone but Twenty20 requires him to bowl just four overs per game and the paceman with the sling action is only 32 years old.
The Maharashtra derby between Mumbai and Pune will mark the beginning of the Indian Premier League group stage that will feature 56 matches ahead of a four-game play-off stage. The Indian Premier League final will take place on Sunday 29 May and Mumbai will have home advantage if it makes the decider.
Mumbai to win the Indian Premier League
9th April to 29th May 2016
Odds: 5/1 6.00 +500 5.00 5.00 -0.20