IPL 2021: Mumbai Indians and the culture of winning
Remarkably, the success of the Rohit Sharma-led team was not built on the sheer power of world's wealthiest Indian, Mukesh Ambani
In the last few seasons, the Mumbai Indians have entered the Indian Premier League (IPL) with supreme confidence. Of course, they are not quite the invincible force in cricket that Michael Phelps was in the pool.
Neither do they remind you of Rafael Nadal’s aura on red dirt in Paris.
But the world’s richest cricket franchise functions like a well-oiled machine, reminding football fans of the legendary German teams that once dismantled rivals with clinical precision.
Remarkably, the success of the Rohit Sharma-led team was not built on the sheer power of world’s wealthiest Indian, Mukesh Ambani.
Rather, it was the money spent smartly on young players keeping an eye on the future that has yielded results for the Mumbai franchise. For a team that won their maiden IPL title only in 2013 (five years after the inception of the world’s biggest T20 league), the Mumbai Indians have gone on to win four more titles in the next seven editions, including three in the last four years. This is staggering consistency in a format famous for its glorious unpredictability.
While the team has the hugely experienced and lavishly gifted Rohit as the captain, Mahela Jayawardene, who once made the romantics drool with his delicate touch as a batsman, pulls the strings from the dressing room.
It’s a combination that has worked its magic on the IPL with Rohit showing ice-cool temperament in many a nail-biting finish and Jayawardene instilling belief in youngsters and laying the platform for a seamless blending of youth and experience. Such was the depth in the Mumbai Indians squad that the team continued to play well in the last season, winning three of the four league matches that skipper Rohit missed due to an injury with stand-in-captain Kieron Pollard doing a fantastic job.
No wonder then that Rohit paid glowing tribute to the team’s bench strength after the Mumbai Indians won their record-extending fifth IPL title last year, beating the Delhi Capitals by five wickets in the final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
“We want to make winning a habit, and you couldn’t have asked any more from the guys. A lot of credit goes to people behind the scenes as well. We have to give them a lot of credit. Our work starts much earlier than the IPL starts,” Rohit said after the final last November. “We analyse what went wrong, what needs to improve, stuff like that. You’ve got to find the right balance where you need to stay calm.” It’s the cool head of Rohit that has allowed players like Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Rahul Chahar to make as big an impact as seasoned international players like Jasprit Bumrah, Pollard, Trent Boult, Quinton de Kock and Hardik Pandya have made for the Mumbai Indians.
“I’m not someone who’ll run with a stick behind someone. The only way you can do it is by giving them confidence. If you look at our batting, between Hardik, Krunal (Pandya) and Polly, we’ve been rotating them,” Rohit said.
“In the bowling dept. too we try what works with us. When you want to change your XI to make it better, you should be able to do that without letting someone down hard,” said Rohit before revealing his admiration for Ishan Kishan. “Ishan Kishan is someone who you can’t cloud his judgement, he has to do what he wants to do in the field.”
The rewards of Mumbai Indians’ efforts in getting the best of out of Ishan, 22, and Suryakumar, 30, were evident with both players making an impact with the Indian team recently against England in what was their first taste of first international.
Those rewards will be evident again when Rohit leads his team out to launch their title defence in Friday’s opener against the Virat Kohli-led Royals Challengers Bangalore.
The contrast in stature could not be more apparent when Mumbai face Bangalore, a team that again spent big at the auction, luring Glenn Maxwell, in a desperate attempt to end their title drought.
Unlike the RCB and some of the other teams, the Mumbai Indians are not in that rat race because Rohit Sharma’s men are in a league of their own.
In an interview with Khaleej Times last year, Manoj Badale, the lead owner of the Rajasthan Royals, doffed his hat to Mumbai Indians when asked what his team needed to do make a deep run every season at the IPL. “When you look at the Mumbai Indians’ consistency, it’s not just about spending more than anyone else, it’s the culture of winning they have built,” Badale said.
“Rohit Sharma’s captaincy, I am not sure he gets as much credit as he deserves because, you know, that team has the culture of winning tight matches.”
It’s that culture of winning tight matches that would make this Mumbai Indians the overwhelming favourites again this year in a tournament as intensely competitive as the IPL.
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