April 19, 2010

Indian Premier League

Preparation key to Mumbai's success

Aakash Chopra


Mumbai Indians warmed up for the IPL well before the tournament began, and their preparedness has taken them to the top of the table © Indian Premier League
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There was never a question of ‘would they’ or ‘wouldn’t they’. Mumbai Indians just had to go pass the league stage. Right from the outset, they looked a unit with a mission. Those daunting 20 points on the rank table, tell a story that perhaps unfolded a few months ago. No, I am not hinting at the season’s biggest buy Kieron Pollard. Neither am I talking about the obviously in-form Sachin Tendulkar. I am talking about the inherent smart thinking that has assured them, if nothing bigger, a place in the semi-finals.

Interestingly, the four teams that found themselves languishing at the bottom of the chart were heard saying that they didn’t play good cricket at crucial junctures which cost them a place in the final 4. But the point isn’t just that.

The IPL, in its third season, has managed to see different teams gaining and losing ground every year. So, is it only about those few crucial overs that separate a win from a loss? Well, yes and no. The fact is that most teams did precious little in the last three seasons to strengthen their sides. One might argue that they bought good players in the auctions, and that they even scouted for talent from the domestic circuit. But is that enough? Isn’t that the easiest route to find players?

Well, that is perhaps the point most teams missed and Mumbai picked. While Twenty20 may seem to have inherent randomness, the preparation is rather systematic. Right from organising camps to holding practice matches, this outfit has been at the job right from the word go. And all this well in advance.

It is not smart to shut shop once the IPL gets over. But that is exactly what most franchises have been doing all this while.

Well, even now, nothing would happen till as late as after the Champions league, when the fresh auctions happen. But, I daresay that it’ll be too late by then. For one the first-class season kicks off; all the good players will be busy playing for their respective states. Yes, the scouting can be carried out but there’s very little time left to make the players IPL-ready. A player might be good for his state team in different formats but will he be a good player in the IPL is anybody’s guess.

The biggest problem these IPL teams face is the lack of time. The team gets together only a few days prior to the tournament which is clearly not enough. But unfortunately that is not going to change in the years to come. So, what can be done to minimise that handicap? While International cricketers won’t be available, the local talent definitely is.

The trick is to have a structure in place which is operational throughout the year. The beginning would be to find young players who have the ability to hit the long ball or bowl yorkers and slower ones with perfection. They may not be good first class cricketers but a good Twenty20 cricketer doesn’t need to be one. Twenty20 requires a different skill-set and if you tick a few boxes, the rest can be worked upon. And then that academy should put these kids through a tough regimen of physical fitness and specific skills training to make them IPL ready when it comes. A Wasim Akram would only be effective if he gets both quality and quantity time with the bowlers, for I didn’t see much of a difference in KKR’s bowling this season.

We have seen that lesser known players like T Suman and Kedar Jadhav can make an impact, hence there is no harm in investing in them. In any case, they come a lot cheaper than the rest. It’s imperative that the IPL teams don’t see this as a 45-days tournament but a year-long activity, something that the Mumbai Indians have incorporated well in their plan.

It’s about time that franchisees go beyond the first class and under-19 circuits to recruit players. Yes, those players might need more nurturing but I’m pretty sure that it’ll be worth the effort.

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Aniket on (April 22, 2010, 6:24 GMT)

Akash...I loved your article 'the science of big hitting'....it was informative and fun to read. I respect you even more after readin this article. I thought till now that you didnt KNOW how to hit big shots......but you know so much and still you practice so much self control....My hat is off! BTW....do you know Ajit Agarkar?..I wanna know the 'science of bowling economically'........LOL

Posted by ric smith on (April 21, 2010, 19:59 GMT)

Management, management, management!They picked the right team, dropped the right players, and kept faith in Pollard - the secret weapon. He had enough time to gain IPL experience. Good decision making by the management and captain was the key. Go Indians!!

Posted by Mahek on (April 20, 2010, 11:34 GMT)

I wonder what Aakash is going on about. He has mentioned hardly anything the team did in preparation for this IPL season.

Posted by Matthew Wong on (April 20, 2010, 11:19 GMT)

@Santosh Dani While the overseas players haven't been the best the IPL also makes alot of money from international viewership. Viewers in NZ, Aus and England have no real affinity to any team so support and watch the teams their own players play in. That why they are costing you so much

Posted by sri on (April 19, 2010, 17:35 GMT)

I do not believe that the Mumbai Indians have done something different than the other teams during the year except the fact that they have scouted well and recruited the cream(Rayudu,Binny,Satish) from the not so vogue ICL. The reason they are doing so well is that everyone of them are contributing when necessary and above all the Master Blaster is in sublime form.

Posted by Tyche on (April 19, 2010, 17:31 GMT)

Hindsight is 20/20 and prediction is hazardous (especially when it is about the future!). It is always easy to look back after the fact and come up with theories that fit the facts perfectly. I would have been much more impressed had Akash written this article before the IPL 2010 started.

Posted by Venkat on (April 19, 2010, 16:12 GMT)

Wish you had given more specifics on what kind of preparation MI had done. Composition wise, they don't seem very different compared to the rest. In fact, their preparation pre-IPL2 was more hyped than this one. I'm curious to know what exactly they did differently from the rest this time.

Posted by Chandrakant on (April 19, 2010, 16:08 GMT)

I agree with you Akash in most of the points you mentioned, especially the need for under-19 Indian players in IPL. I would really love to see a completely changed KKR next year, of course one thing must remain the same, needless to say its one and only Dada! Mumbai was good in most of their matches but I am scared that Bangalore will stop the winning ride of Mumbai Indians in the first semi final. I desperately wanted to see a grand finale between MI Vs RCB, but will have to wait till next year!

Posted by SG on (April 19, 2010, 15:34 GMT)

Aakash, I like most of your writings and think you write best about technique, mindset and attitude. Clearly a thinking cricketer. This article however was so unlike you. Short on substance, it reduced the whole concept of year long preparatory camp to banalities, the kind we expect from most ordinary writers Bhogle et al. I realize its a blog so randon thoughts can be jotted down but not in the guise of an thoughtful article. Write when you ahve something insightful not just to meet a deadline. SG

Posted by Vipul on (April 19, 2010, 15:22 GMT)

Hi Akash, While I am not a great fan of this format of the game, I beg to differ with you when you say that a good T20 player need not be a good first class player. While it may be true for batsmen, it is not so the case with the bowlers. I think the bowler has to be at his highest accuracy when bowling in this most condensed format of the game. I am of course basing my theory on the assumption that any bowler who has a slight exposure to any T20 match knows where to pitch the next ball. So under this assumption, if the control of someone like Harmeet Singh can be tuned to the level of Vaas, he can be just as effective. And if he can be effective in this format, why can't he be in the longer formats? It then boils down only to his stamina of bowling more overs.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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