It was the blockbuster clash of IPL2020. Delhi Capitals were supposed to challenge the Mumbai Indians, but at the end it was a comfortable five-wicket win for the defending champions. Mumbai’s meticulous planning and execution are to be marvelled at. Their attention to detail is second to none and the contributions from the ‘second tier’ players ensure they have all the bases covered this season.
Suryakumar Yadav, Rahul Chahar and to lesser extent Krunal Pandya are excellent players, but they aren’t the backbone of the team. The decorated players like Rohit Sharma, Keiron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah will always be the shining light, but underneath that core group are a set of players who are getting more efficient at executing with each outing. This is why Mumbai gels better than any other franchise.
They are not over reliant on one individual. Yes, there are expectations from Pollard, Bumrah or a Rohit, but for all of them to fulfil their duties, they need assistance from a Suryakumar or an Ishan Kishan.
Working together as a unit is Mumbai's strength and they do it by focusing on smaller aspects. For example, last night after the dismissal of Rohit Sharma, Quinton De Kock sensed the wicket presented an opportunity for Delhi to crawl back into the contest, so in the next over, he smashed two sixes to ensure the pressure was off the new batsman Suryakumar Yadav. It was outstanding game management and teamwork.
Similarly, at the fall of De Kock's wicket, a small window of opportunity had opened up for Delhi and Shreyas Iyer turned to his strike bowler Kagiso Rabada. But instead of trying anything outrageous, Yadav went into a shell and just picked off a couple of singles. Yadav knew his team couldn't afford to lose back to back wickets. He had the belief of scoring runs in the upcoming overs. To state the facts, Mumbai scored 21 of the next two overs with ease. This was attention to detail. These are things that cannot be taught, but are learnt on the job.
Even a player like a Kishan knew that once the ball was thrown to Marcus Stoinis, it was his turn to up the tempo. Two boundaries and the required run-rate was in control. Other teams such as Kings XI Punjab have lost from improbable situations, but Mumbai rarely loses from winnable positions because their attention to detail is far greater than any other team.
Ask any player that has played for Mumbai and other franchises and they will reveal that no franchise is better at analysing the opposition. While breaking down opponents in the form of numbers is one aspect, it also requires excellent leadership and belief.
In Rohit Sharma, Mumbai Indians have an outstanding captain. Those who have played under Rohit, state that one of his greatest strength is he backs the bowler regardless of the situation. Last night, Rohit had belief in leg-spinner Rahul Chahar to bowl the 17th over. It was an important decision given Shikar Dhawan was unbeaten on 50 and big hitter Marcus Stoinis was looking to tee-off. The previous over from Boult had yielded 16 runs. Chahar stuck to his strength and conceded only eight runs. Delhi could only manage 35 runs from the last 24 balls, despite having a well set batsman and a power hitter at the crease. Mumbai bowlers, led by Chahar had managed to plateau the Delhi scoring rate at the crucial time of the match.
Such is Mumbai’s strength that despite James Pattinson having an erratic day, other bowlers like Krunal Pandya and Chahar were able to fill the void. The day Rohit is dismissed early, De Kock contributes heavily. This is teamwork at its best.
Mumbai are aware that teams bowl their spinners through the middle overs. So instead of having their power hitters blast them out the ground, they rely on Suryakumar, a fine player of slow bowling, to milk them at six or seven runs an over. On Sunday, Suryakumar's calculated assault on Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin was a fine example of his skills against slow bowlers.
Mumbai have realised in the last few years that there core players like Pollard can still have maximum impact with minimal deliveries, while the second tier players like a Kishan need maximum balls. There is no mistrust or segregation in terms of the core group and the lesser renowned players. The coaching staff led by Mahela Jayawardena deserve a lot of credit of creating such a successful environment. It should not come as a surprise that Mumbai continue to improve as unit. With each season and each outing, they are learning to tick all the boxes.
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