Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Mahela Jayawardene before attending the virtual press conference. (MI Twitter)
Dubai - The Indian limited overs vice-captain reminded his players that the Mumbai Indians dressing room demands winning mentality.
The Mumbai Indians' joy of having finally got the chance to defend their IPL title in the pandemic-ravaged season was diminished by Lasith Malinga's reluctance to reach the UAE shores to bowl his toe-crushers.
Without their talismanic fast bowler who decided to skip the event due to personal reasons, Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma admitted his team would face a big challenge in their attempt to become only the second team after the Chennai Super Kings to defend the title.
Attending his first virtual press conference alongside Malinga's legendary compatriot and Mumbai Indians head coach, Mahela Jayawardene, Rohit said the defending champions would need to rise to the occasion in the absence of their bowling trump card.
The 13th edition of the world's biggest T20 league gets underway with four-time champions Mumbai Indians taking on three-time winners Chennai Super Kings at the majestic Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
But it was the void left by Malinga's decision to skip the tournament that dominated the press conference on Thursday.
And Rohit had no qualms admitting that it was an unenviable task for anyone trying to take the place of a bowler who tops the all-time IPL wicket-takers' list with 170 wickets at a staggering average of 19.80.
But what numbers would never reveal is the impact Malinga has on the teams he plays for with his unplayable yorkers that come down at terrifying pace in the death overs.
"For anyone it's hard to fill his boots. What he (Malinga) has done over the years for the Mumbai Indians and the Sri Lankan national team, it's been remarkable," Rohit said.
"I don't think it's so easy to just come and fill his boots. He has been a match-winner for Mumbai. Whenever we find ourselves in trouble, Malinga is the one to bail us out from that.
"Obviously his experience will be missed. What he did with MI is unbelievable. So it's unfortunate that he is not part of the team this year. We have got guys like Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson, Dhawal Kulkarni, these are the names that we will be looking to replace Malinga with.
"But obviously what Malinga did for Mumbai, you know, like I said, it's not comparable, you know. You just have to leave someone like him aside and not look for replacement.
"It's important that the guys who are coming in taking his position in the playing XI, they have come to the squad without any pressure, without any baggage. They just need to come here and get settled in the team and start doing what the team is expecting them to."
The Indian limited overs vice-captain then reminded his players that the Mumbai Indians dressing room demands winning mentality.
"We have made it very clear for the players what their roles are and what we expect from them. It's not too complicated. Of course, we have certain standards and I hope that everyone lives up to that standard. That's what the culture at MI is," he said.
And having played here in the first phase of the 2014 IPL, Rohit says they have to forget the past records.
"We have to understand the conditions here and play to our potential. So I think the past performance certainly will not play any part this time around because it's only two or three guys from that squad - myself, Kieron Pollard, maybe (Jasprit) Bumrah, who maybe played only one game that year (2014)," he said.
"None of the other current players were a part of the 2014 squad. So the team is different, the staff is different, the thought process is different. So we are looking forward to a great IPL this time around as well. We want to put up good performance and start well."