In Focus: Mumbai Indians

In the ultra-competitive Indian Premier League (IPL), what goes on behind the scenes for the successful franchises? How do they find success on the field – be it winning trophies consistently or staying ahead of the curve? Each club has its own formula, but the four-time Mumbai Indians have their own story. Having won a third of the titles, the Indians are currently the most successful franchise in the tournament history. They are the current IPL title holders and when (and not if) the 2020 season, the 13th of the tournament, is played the Mumbai Indians will be a hot betting favourite to lift the trophy.

That speaks volumes about what MI brings to the IPL table, which is the most-attended cricket league in the world. Not just that, with US $113 million brand valuation, MI is the top-valued team for IPL – which was valued at $6.7million in 2019. What makes MI so special and what brings them close to the top of the ladder? Here at Bet From India, we look at the journey of the franchise from the very beginning. 

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The roots & the initial struggle of Mumbai

Founded in January 2008, as the BCCI sold the Mumbai-based franchise to the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) for a whopping sum of US $119 million. That made them the most expensive team to be sold in the league. Mumbai remains the hub of Indian cricket, with the domestic side a giant in the Ranji Trophy of the Indian domestic circuit. With 41 Championships so far, they have been the undisputed kings of Indian cricket. It was a no-brainer that the cricket-mad city got an IPL team of its own.

That, of course, was just the start. MI couldn’t get a good footing in the initial years, failing to reach the playoffs for the first two seasons. The loss in the 2010 final was an eye-opener, as the club understood that success on the field wasn’t going to be straightforward. The franchise decided that to ensure regular success, they should do more than just a three-month concentration on the processes.

That realisation started the MI blueprint for sustained success. They became the first franchise to introduce a scouting system in the IPL. The Mumbai Indians realised that an XI with seven Indian players needs to have strong roots in the uncapped Indian player sector. A process was put in place to identify the untapped, uncapped, but potentially good players from the domestic scene. Former players Kiran More, Abey Kuruvilla, Rahul Sanghvi were joined by John Wright and TA Sekar with a single motto – build a strong base for MI.

Scouting and spotting talent for Mumbai Indians

The objective of this scouting group was to start spotting talent in pre-IPL months. Indeed, to put in the words of an insider – MI thinktank does 90% of their work before the season and their work for the next season starts immediately after the last ball of this IPL is bowled. The scouts are tasked with watching all the domestic games and even attend the less glamorous local leagues including the ‘Kanga League’ in Mumbai. Elaborate notes will be prepared on players – including international players – and exchanged with the owners.

This level of scouting has borne fruit in many ways for the MI already. Unknown players like Mayank Markande and Krunal Pandya have been picked out of local leagues after showing promise. Even the ICC ODI number 2 ranked Jasprit Bumrah is a find of the MI. When he burst on to the scene, his unorthodox action was questioned by many experts, who proclaimed he wouldn’t excel in international cricket. But here we are – as of March 2020, Bumrah has played 14 Tests (68 wickets), 64 ODIs (104 wickets, ER 4.55) and 50 T20Is (59 wickets, ER 6.66).

The Indian national team’s biggest all-rounder of recent times, Hardik Pandya, is also an MI product. His older brother Krunal has also gone on to represent India, while the likes of Markande and Rahul Chahar remain on the fringes. To stretch the thesis further, Kuldeep Yadav (who found success with Kolkata Knight Riders) and Yuzvendra Chahal (who was a hit with Royal Challengers Bangalore) were also picked up by MI initially.

Statistics and pragmatic decisions

Scouting players is only half the story, as success is won or lost on the field. MI didn’t win their first IPL title until 2013 but have won four of the last eight, including last season’s. Stats play a huge role in their success, as the MI thinktank try out every possible statistic, before formulating strategies. Some of those include targeting Virat Kohli with a left-arm seamer, Andre Russell’s weakness to bouncers from right-arm around the wicket and many more.

Not just that, even team selections are done based on tangible results rather than emotions. When Yuvraj Singh was benched in the IPL 2019 after four matches in favour of Ishan Kishan, eyebrows were raised. However, the Mumbai Indians management was aware of what they were up to, keeping emotions out of the way of such decisions. That said, they do have emotional bonds with long-term players – highlighted by the confidence shown in fan favourites Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga.

Captain’s might

All this aside, the presence and acumen of Rohit Sharma is a key to MI’s success. Having joined the Mumbai Indians in 2011, Rohit went on to captain his side to four IPL trophies – the most of any captain. Not just that, Rohit has the greatest number of runs for the Indians (3,372) and he is also the third leading run-scorer of all-time in the IPL (4,898). He is the most successful captain in the IPL with four titles and has a 58.65% winning percentage (61 wins out of 104, including one super-over).

There is a running joke that Rohit wins the titles in odd years – 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 being his glory years. Whether he breaks that and adds an even year to his cabinet (2020) is something that will be of interest. After all, this is the 13th year of the IPL, so don’t tip against Rohit Sharma’s men going all the way.

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