Four-Time Champions – Decoding Mumbai Indians’ Success Formula
Mumbai Indians are the team to beat in the Indian Premier League. There can no more be two ways about it. Their four trophies, over the span of seven years, are truly the testimony to their consistency and constancy.
A penchant for success, the keenness to work on their players even after the IPL season is over and the presence of numerous scouting groups that spot exciting Indian talent during the domestic season have ensured long-term benefits to the franchise.
Making bold decisions, backing their core group and heavily investing in young guns to eventually lead the Mumbai Indians team, the side has been showing the way not only on the field but off it as well. Starting work for the next edition just a few weeks after the previous one has ended or setting in place a system where experienced cricketers chalk out the way forward, the group is employed in heavy background work that culminates on-field.
‘Condition-specific Planning’ Key to Success
Jayant Yadav had played only one game for Mumbai this year, against Delhi Capitals at the Feroz Shah Kotla, back on 18 April. However, he was brought into the team for the crucial Qualifier 1 against Chennai Super Kings last week. He picked the crucial wicket of Suresh Raina and kept things tight as well, conceding 25 runs.
This ability to chalk out plans based on rivals and conditions has led to Mumbai’s rise, something that was reinforced by Yadav after the game that his side won.
“Our plans on batting or bowling have always been condition specific. For example in Wankhede, there are different plans for different people. In Chennai, there are different plans for different people. So, it’s about gearing yourself tactically to various situations and trying to execute those plans to the hilt.”Jayant Yadav, Mumbai Indians
One way this is achieved is by keeping the fringe players match-ready all the time. All individuals who are not in the fray for selection for an upcoming game stay back in Mumbai when a season is on, and have net sessions regularly. Instead of being mere travelers, they hone their skills away from the limelight, so that when they are called upon, they can immediately go out and strike.
According to coach Mahela Jayawardene, picking players for a game in the end comes down to “honest selections.” "It is a collective decision we make and sometimes it is not the easiest of decisions but as long as you are honest about it, it makes things easier."
Hence Mayank Markande, who turned heads in IPL 2018, was replaced by Rahul Chahar in the latter half of the tournament, while Yuvraj Singh, who started the season with a 50 was dropped soon after with young Ishan Kishan being preferred over the veteran. While Chahar was one of the most impressive bowlers this season, scalping 13 wickets, Kishan could only score 101 runs in 7 games, but turned games around with his fielding - including in the finals where he ran out MS Dhoni with a direct hit.
Backing Their Core Group
Another area where Mumbai have fared tremendously well was their willingness to nurture young talent who then become crucial members of the camp. While Harbhajan Singh and Ambati Rayudu - both in Chennai Super Kings now - were backed in the first decade of the tournament, the last few years have been about the blossoming of Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya - who have not only been the key for Mumbai but have also adorned an irreplaceable role in the international set-up.
John Wright spotted Bumrah in a customary scouting session, while the Pandya brothers stood out for their “hatke” confidence and skills. The trio have gelled perfectly with Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga, and together they have been creating waves with their performances on the field as well with the camaraderie off it.
Building and remodelling the team keeping in mind this core group has been a conscious effort, according to Jayawardene.
‘We have created that culture over the years and we try to keep the core group of player so they have the identity and passion to play for the team. And whenever the youngsters have been introduced, they walk into that culture as well. It is a conscious effort to bring in players, both local and foreigners who can fit in with the core group.’Mahela Jayawardene, Coach, Mumbai Indians
Hence, Quinton de Kock was traded in for this season, while Suryakumar Yadav was bought in the auctions last year to hold the reins in the top-order. Both have played crucial roles, and knowing the trend with Mumbai Indians, it would not be a surprise to see them playing for the franchise for an extended time.
However, it is not just the players that have ensured continuity. The background staff has been constant too, with Shane Bond as bowling coach, Paul Chapman as trainer and Nitin Patel as pyshio. Jonty Rhodes as the fielding coach, Robin Singh (assistant coach), Paras Mhambrey (assistant coach), Rahul Sanghvi (team manager) and CKM Dhananjai (analyst) are other names who have or had been associated with the franchise since they won their first title in 2013. Sachin Tendulkar too steps in when required and assists Jayawardene, who took over in 2016. Along with Zaheer Khan, who played for the franchise earlier, the Men who Matter have been turning heads as well.
In a heart-warming moment, they called then-injured Malinga as the mentor of the MI team in IPL 2018. This season he was back to his yorker-bowling best, and even won the team the cup as he defended 9 runs off the last over in the finals. Keiron Pollard, who many teams might have dropped after an ordinary last three years including a below-par 2018 when his average dipped to 19, was retained and the West Indian repaid this confidence with a few handy knocks and some stunning boundary catches this season.
Grooming of a Young leader in Rohit Sharma
Mumbai Indians set a legacy of sorts when they gave the leadership role to a young Rohit Sharma midway through in 2013. There has been no looking back since, as the Team India opener has emerged as one of the most dynamic captains in the Indian Premier League.
His ploy to use five different bowlers in the first five overs of the CSK innings in Qualifier 1 this year displayed his immaculate understanding of the game, while his decision to bat first against SRH in the penultimate league game as the side were poor chasers, and his reverse decision in the next against Kolkata Knight Riders displayed his ability to read the oppositions just as well. Against KKR in a crucial game, he opted to chase due to the Andre Russell-factor.
In many ways, it also reflected the immense self-confidence within the camp - the belief that they could emerge victorious from any situation. Which is what exactly happened against SRH and then against KKR.
And then in the finals as Rohit opted to give Malinga - a bowler who had been smashed for 42 in his first 3 overs - the last over when he had 9 to defend, questions were swiveling around. Was it going to back-fire?
A few moments later he had guided them to an enthralling 1-run win, with the skipper earning truckloads of praise for sticking to experience in crunch moments.