IPL 2020: Method behind magic — MI's near-perfect recipe makes them a majestic T20 machine

Trent Boult getting a wicket in the first over (first ball) of the innings, and then another inside the Powerplay. Jayant Yadav cleaning up ‘left-handed’ Shikhar Dhawan. Mumbai Indians' bowlers restricting DC to 38/3 in the death overs. Quinton de Kock getting Mumbai Indians off to a blistering start. Suryakumar Yadav crunching his first ball via a stylish punch through covers and then flicking the next one for a six over long leg. Yadav sacrificing his wicket for his set captain at the other end. Ishan Kishan finishing off the chase, unbeaten at the end with the stump in his hand and smile on his face.

The IPL 2020 final was a microcosm of MI’s performance right through the tournament. Almost every aspect of Mumbai's game in the final epitomised the brand of cricket they have played right through the tournament. The brand of cricket that has imposed their domination over the league. The brand of cricket that has made them outclass every team in the league. The brand of cricket — fearless, brave, smart, and consistent — that has made them five-time champions.

While the rest of the teams' nerves kept flaring up and blood pressures fluctuated continuously in the race for Playoffs, Mumbai sat calmly in their cushioned armchair at the top of the table, ice cool, devising strategies for the Playoffs by qualifying early. And then they bossed the Playoffs and the some style. They beat every team at least once in the tournament (and their opponent in the finals DC - four times).

In winning their fifth title and becoming just the second team to win back-to-back titles in a row along with Chennai Super Kings, MI have shown that they have the near-perfect recipe for T20 success.

Mumbai Indians players with the IPL 2020 trophy after beating Delhi Capitals in the final. Image: Sportzpics for BCCI

Mumbai Indians players with the IPL 2020 trophy after beating Delhi Capitals in the final. Image: Sportzpics for BCCI

They were ahead of all the other teams in almost every department. The numbers tell the story. They believed in setting the tone upfront with the bat and took an aggressive approach in the Powerplay with Quinton de Kock being the primary aggressor. Even if they lost a wicket inside the Powerplay, Suryakumar Yadav, who had his best IPL, continued the attacking approach to make sure they didn't get bogged down. Mumbai had the second-best run rate in the Powerplays - 7.91.

Momentum is an extremely crucial component in the T20s. A lot of teams find it difficult to take it forward and maintain it in the middle overs as they crumble at the death trying to accelerate. However, MI have the ammunition to maintain that momentum in different phases of the game.

The likes of Yadav and Kishan always kept the runs flowing in the middle overs. They had one of the best players of spin in Yadav and that was a massive factor.

MI had the best middle overs run rate of 7.89 and as they whizzed into the death overs, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya and one of the set batsmen then provided the explosion or the knockout punch. With a power-packed and versatile line-up, MI had the belief to pull off a victory from any position.

Factor the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai. Chasing 202, MI were struggling at 78/4 in the 12th over, needing 124 from 52 balls. Kishan and Pollard led the counterattack and pulled off a tie. RCB eventually went on to win in the Super Over, but that batting display showed that no equation is out of reach for MI. They scored at 12.09 runs an over at the death in the league, more than any other team.

Star-studded teams like RCB, CSK never managed to find the right approach to batting almost throughout the tournament while MI's structured batting seamlessly transitioned from one phase to another and it was a testament to their capability to adapt to different pitches and conditions. Overall, they had the best run rate in the tournament - 8.77 (excluding the extras) and they also hit the most number of sixes in the league – 137.

Their bowling wasn't far behind. Early wickets pegged back the opposition right from the start and the key enforcer was Trent Boult. MI's shrewd move of buying Boult from DC in the trade window paid rich dividends as he consistently picked wickets in the Powerplay including the first overs.

Trent Boult picked up 16 wickets in the Powerplay and gave away runs at just 6.7 with a strike rate of 13.5 - the second-best in the history of the tournament in Powerplay.

Jasprit Bumrah showed his versatility by performing in all three phases of the game. With Boult picking up early wickets, it allowed Rohit to utilise Bumrah more in the middle and at the death. And Bumrah flourished in both the roles scything through the middle and lower-middle orders.

Mumbai had the best economy rate in the Powerplay - 6.99 and picked up the most wickets, 31, in that phase. A key component in the final was how they finished especially after the repair job of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant. It was a phase that could have taken DC to 170-180 with Iyer in the middle and the likes of Hetmyer and Axar Patel in their line-up but MI gave away just 38 runs and picked three wickets from the last five overs to restrict them to 156.

While their death overs batting had been a confidence-denter for the opposition, their death bowling has been a momentum sucker. MI finished with the best economy rate at the death - 8.95, picking up 36 wickets (third-most) in that phase.

The only phase where they lagged was the middle overs bowling where they had the second-worst economy rate of 8.07. However, it wasn't bad enough to prove to be a game-changer for the opponents. The spin department was supposed to be their weak link but Rahul Chahar stepped up to revel in the role as the spin spearhead, picking up 15 wickets from 15 matches at 28.86, with an economy rate of 8.16 and strike rate of 21.2.

As always, Mumbai's campaign was not about a single performer. There were different players putting up their hands at crucial junctures. There were six batsmen who scored over 200 runs (two over 500, one over 400, one over 300, and two over 200) and four bowlers who picked over 10 wickets. Mumbai's players fired in unison and that's one of the biggest factors behind their success. Add to that the tactical nous and bravery of Rohit Sharma and the team management and you get a deadly combo.

Rohit is calm and composed as a captain who believes in tactical match-ups and never hesitates from making the tough calls. They had the audacity of benching their best spinner - Chahar - in the final to include off-spinner Jayant Yadav against a left-hand heavy DC batting line-up. It worked as Yadav sent back the second-highest run-getter in the tournament and the in-form Dhawan in his first over, kept it tight, extracted spin and bounce from the wicket, and finished with figures of 4-0-25-1.

With Lasith Malinga pulling out, MI replaced him with James Pattinson ahead of the tournament. While people pondered why MI didn't add a spinner, Rohit strengthened his strength - their fast bowling. He wanted a bowler who could bowl fast and hit the deck. The pitches in UAE assisted the pacers early on and that move clicked.

MI have also been highly consistent in team selection, there is not much chopping and changing. They used the least number of players in the tournament - 15. There is consistency in the backroom staff as well which helps in accelerating the understanding and bonding between the players and the backroom staff.

Not just the onfield performance, there are lots of off-field factors that have helped them become probably the best T20 team in the world. They have consistently retained their core, bought versatile players in the auctions to develop a balanced team, unearthed youngsters, developed them, and provided them with opportunities. Look no further than the Pandya brothers or Jasprit Bumrah. They have a strong scouting system.

The owners have provided them with the best facilities, and team bonding has been one of their biggest priorities seasons after season. In a year where the pandemic has wreaked havoc, and players have found it tougher than ever in the bio-bubbles, MI management kept the spirits high by forming a bubble inside a bubble converting the 15,000 square feet ballroom of the St Regis Al Sadiyaat Island resort in Abu Dhabi into their recreational room. They allowed the families to travel with the players and bonded the players through indoor sports and karaoke sessions.

The meticulous planning ahead of the tournament also played a massive role. Despite the uncertainties, the management started planning for the tournament and the preparations began in Mumbai two months ahead of the tournament at the Jio Cricket Stadium in Navi Mumbai.

Krunal highlighted the importance of that preparation post the final. By the time the team reached Dubai, everyone knew their roles clearly, the preparation back home was perfect, it was all about executing what they were doing in the nets out in the middle, he said.

As Rohit said, MI's success is not rocket science. There is a method behind the magic.

In the virtual conference before the final, Rohit was asked about MI's weaknesses and what he would do as an opposition captain facing Mumbai in the final.

Rohit replied: "Looking at the squad, the strength and balance of the team, I cannot point out anything (weakness) to be honest."

It says a lot about the captain's confidence in his team and the edifice that the team management and the owners have built.

"It's not a rocket science," he continued. "We've worked really hard for this...the balance....these players. All these players were available to all the teams let me tell you that, right from Quinton De Kock to No 11 Jasprit Bumrah, but we invested in them in the beginning and we had faith in them.

“A lot of credit goes to the Mumbai Indians team management, the scout, they have done a great job with all these guys making sure they get that comfort, they get that backing otherwise it's not possible to have a squad like that. We've seen every day how this game changes and the player has to change as well with how the game is going.

"All these guys have adapted to it really well which is why we stand today in a position where we qualified much before the other teams. It was good to see how we played in this tournament. It was sheer brilliance from each individual putting their hands up at different stages and people coming in and taking responsibility. It was a great sign. I cannot be happier than this to be honest, the balance and strength of this team lies in the individual belief. We've created a great team here and I hope we can stick to it."

Yes, MI have indeed created a great team, a majestic T20 machine. They won the now-defunct Champions League twice. They have now 'even' won in a non-odd year. They have won five IPL titles, more than any team.

It's not just the supporters of Donald Trump, but also weary fans of Mumbai's rivals, who are desperately shouting, "Stop the count!”

Updated Date: November 11, 2020 11:14:19 IST

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