MUMBAI: Four-time champions, Mumbai Indians, are gearing up for what is now a fifth shot at the Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy and appear extremely confident to take on first-time finalists Delhi Capitals, who they’ve already beaten thrice this season.
On paper, on field, the Delhi Capitals line-up has been no match for Mumbai Indians. Such has been the defending champions’ domination right through the tournament that on any given day, any single player – be it Quinton de Kock, Hardik Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Jasprit Bumrah or Trent Boult – has appeared capable of single-handedly taking the match away from the opposition.
While Delhi will look to turn tables to the best of their ability in the final on Tuesday, there’s no moving away from the fact that MI have been a) the most dominant side among all teams this year; b) never have MI dominated an IPL edition the way they did this season.
The form and confidence that MI brought into this tournament wasn’t built overnight as the IPL bandwagon hurried, towards the last two weeks of August, to rush to the UAE. Even as the BCCI took its own time announcing that the IPL was moving out of the country, subject to mandatory government permissions, Mumbai Indians had already been working on the idea since June – a little more than two months before the official announcement came.
“The idea was to be ready, in case the announcement comes. At best, even if the IPL didn’t happen, the (MI) players would’ve still been working on their fitness and cricket, which was a win-win,” say those tracking developments.
“It’s been brilliant!”Mahela and Bond share their thoughts ahead of our BIG final tomorrow 🔵#OneFamily… https://t.co/P6u9L44eF0
— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) 1604925000000
It was in June that the top management of the franchise first got into a huddle to discuss ways in which they could go about, keeping the prospect of this year’s edition in mind. In doing so, here’s a gist of how things worked out inside the MI camp:
* In June 2020, the MI management first discussed the possibility of IPL this season and decided that should the tournament take place, they should be ready with their set of plans, regardless of whether the event took place in India or got moved overseas.
* By the end of June, a hotel in Navi Mumbai – in close proximity to the Jio cricket stadium – was earmarked, sanitised and kept ready for players and support staff of the franchise to stay. The MI management laid out its own bio-bubble that would allow cricketers to stay at the hotel and travel to the stadium and back for practice every day, once they arrived and finished with the mandatory two-week quarantine.
* In early July, MI cricketers based out of Mumbai, and their family members, were requested to go through the necessary Covid tests and once all results came negative, these players started visiting the Navi Mumbai facility for practice on a regular basis.
* Keeping the heavy monsoons in mind, the Jio Stadium’s indoor training facilities were thrown open to the players and a huge canopy was erected in the middle of the ground, almost covering the entire 30-yard circle for players to undergo net sessions even during the rainy season. The canopy ensured that the three centre pitches remained protected at all times.
* By mid-July, MI’s cricketers from the rest of the country gradually started to fly to Mumbai, as and when it was feasible and followed the protocols laid in place – to quarantine at the Navi Mumbai hotel for the mandatory two-week period before joining the rest of the players in the nets.
* Towards the end of July, once the BCCI began confirming that the IPL would indeed move to the UAE, senior MI cricketers like Jasprit Bumrah and the Pandya brothers – Krunal & Hardik – joined the camp.
* By the time August arrived, Mumbai Indians had put its logistic and operational plans in place for UAE. Once told by the BCCI that they would have to be based out of Abu Dhabi, the franchise earmarked a hotel at the far end of the capital city and booked an entire wing.
* Booking an entire wing of the hotel would ensure the franchise would be completely cut-off from the other half of the hotel, in case there were other guests. The players would have exclusive access to amenities such as the swimming pool and restaurants inside the hotel.
* In doing so, MI also did the following. They arranged for their own state-of-the-art gym, play-stations and other recreational activities for their players inside the hotel and sanitised the entire facility which would help during the ‘torturous’ quarantine window.
* For reasons of safety, MI took minor precautions such as booking two team buses instead of one. The franchise, in fact, went to the extent of removing an alternate row of seats inside the team bus to give players extra leg-room keeping long-distance travels between Abu Dhabi to Sharjah, Dubai and back.
* While all of this was happening in UAE, back in India, the training session caught pace and fitness regimens moved to the next level as players began to get into the groove following an almost five-month break from the game.
* MI began considering the most minor aspects of comfort and well-being such as making plans to travel with a barber (given that the team would be inside a bio-bubble in UAE for more than two months) and setting up their own kitchen at the Abu Dhabi hotel, to suit different palettes.
* The entire team flew to UAE in the third week of August, with less than a month to go before the tournament would get underway. The BCCI released the IPL 2020 schedule on September 6, confirming Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings would play the opening game, by when MI’s overseas players were just about flying in or were about to arrive. Quinton de Kock and Nathan Coulter-Nile were among the first to arrive, followed by Trent Boult, Chris Lynn and James Pattinson. Kieron Pollard and Sherfane Rutherford flew in last after the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) concluded on September 10.
* With the mandatory Covid tests and quarantines over, the team hit the nets at full strength and played several matches within the camp, under lights, to find the perfect rhythm. “It’s been work in progress ever since,” say those tracking the franchise.
Regardless of whether Mumbai Indians lift the trophy on Tuesday, which if they do will be for a record fifth time, the effort put in on and off the field by the franchise remains a case study for the rest of the ecosystem.