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Cricket news - An ideology that aids Mumbai Indians' success
A moment of sudden realisation for Rohit Sharma during the press conference in Hyderabad was cue for laughter. The five-time IPL winner had, admittedly, forgotten about the first-ever time he laid his hands on the grand prize. That, though, is not a slight on what he, the emerging player of the tournament that year, and Deccan Chargers achieved together back in 2009. But simply what the Mumbai Indians project has been all about, hitting the sweet spot of consistent success in the times of swift evolution of the format.
As the press conference progressed, it also gave a peek into the mind of Rohit the IPL captain, and the direction he's believed best for the success MI have achieved through the last seven years. "I am a firm believer in having planning. Whatever game you play, you have to go with a plan and have some sort of strategies around the opposition. I've seen IPL from close quarters, you need to be a little dynamic. Be a little different in terms of what you want to achieve on the field. And I have staff around me who have tasted success, who have had so much experience playing this format also," Rohit said.
But this dynamism doesn't come easy. Data and analytics have started to give teams a clear edge, but even that warrants a lot of brainstorming and can often get cancelled out by the ammunition that each data/video analyst arms their respective teams with.
One such successful strategy for MI - against MVP of the season, Andre Russell - revealed the team's outlook towards such pre-match exercises. MI spent the week after he plundered a 40-ball 80 in Eden Gardens against them, in perusing through hours of video data in search of a plan. Which then, gave way to what Rohit describes as the 'ideal option'.
"Certain planning, certain strategies we make according to the opposition, and it has worked for us. For example, against KKR, Malinga has never bowled around the wicket to any batsman. So he came and bowled to Andre Russell, he got him out. That was sheer planning. We went through his videos as well to see what sort of movements he creates when he bats, so we thought coming round the wicket will be an ideal option for him and bowl that bouncer. That's an example I gave, but overall what I want to say is strategies and planning do help and we're very good at what we do here," Rohit said.
There of course can't be a foolproof plan against oppositions in sport, but years of such strategies by think-tanks have proved that it gives you a little more when combined with the overall skill level, as compared to going in with just the skills alone.
The Netflix documentary of the team's 2018 campaign - called the Cricket Fever - gave a glimpse of the wide-ranging roles that their support staff gets to play over a season. Mahela Jayawardene, for instance, was the behind-the-scenes protagonist throughout, being at the helm of most key discussions, with or without Rohit. And that wasn't just for the cameras prying into the team's inner-sanctum.
"[We're] fortunate to have a staff like that, who day in and day out sit in the team room and discuss the planning, the strategies, and most of the time it does work. Because you need to have some sort of planning and some sort of understanding about the opposition."
"They are the ones who sit in the team rooms that plan what we need to do as a team, what works for our team and then the plans are laid out for me to take whatever I want to take," Rohit said.
An ideology for the win Filling up their trophy cabinet with one-third the number of titles up for grabs since 2008 is in itself commendable. But to come back from the lows of 2018, and toy with the ever-consistent Chennai Super Kings, has been the pinnacle of this achievement. A 4-0 scoreline over a side on the same success wavelength as them was also the vindication of their backroom thought process, which incidentally appears to be poles apart from the CSK ethos.
The three-time champions established in the early years of the league that on-field excellence need not necessarily have much to do with the talk that goes on in the lead up as MS Dhoni's in-game tactical manoeuvring squeezed out most oppositions and set CSK on the path to glory.
A concept as simplistic as taking the game deep to strip it down to its bare minimum - a blink-and-miss contest between the batsman and the bowler on the last six balls - has still been hard for oppositions to find a way out of.
It is very clear that CSK still have opted not to jump on to the data bandwagon. Dwayne Bravo's early season revelation, instead, showed how even after all these years, the team is still dependent on Dhoni's match instincts.
"We don't plan. We don't have team meetings .We just turn up and go with the flow," Bravo had said. It is so much more important for the batch of 2018 and 19, which carries the baggage of being the oldest and the slowest side - a combination that's not usually preferred by T20 teams.
"We know our weaknesses, we play smart and we are well led by the best captain in the world. And he keeps reminding us that you know we're not the fastest team, but we can be the smartest team," Bravo said.
It was Dhoni's astute reading of the game that made sure their comeback title win last year wasn't a one-off. They followed that success even through a season riddled with mistakes to come all the way before falling at the final hurdle in 2019. If anything, CSK's just-concluded season is further proof that there are two sides to the current data obsession.
But as things stands, CSK face their toughest time ahead. MS Dhoni's cryptic response to Sanjay Manjrekar about his availability next season could have a dismantling effect on the ethos of the side. Stephen Fleming also acknowledged the need to rebuild the team and why it could be tough ahead of the next season.
"We will give some time for dust to settle down. I think if you've won the tournament and then lost by one run, it's been pretty good two years. We do understand we're an ageing team. So at some point, we just have to look at recreating the side.
"The other thing to consider is that it's year three in an auction, a lot of talent has been established in other teams. You've just got to be a little bit careful to get the balance right when you look at the areas you want to improve and the players you think that can do that. But it will take a bit of time to review this season and, again it's a successful season, even though we feel pretty flat," the CSK head coach said.
For Mumbai Indians, meanwhile, the way is only up. A sense of continuity to an established ideology over the last few years has given them success in alternate seasons. Next year, then, presents an opportunity to go level with CSK on one more unparalleled achievement - of defending an IPL title.
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