The organised chaos of match-day
Match Number 65.
I can hardly believe that we have already reached game number 65. This IPL has produced fantastic cricket matches and I'm sure that like me it has kept all the viewers interested throughout. What does a match day entail for the players of KKR?
The group can be divided into those who make breakfast and those who don’t. Because the matches start so late it can be a long day waiting around so most of the guys choose to sleep in and start their day after lunch. Breakfast is very relaxed and it's fair to say the mind isn't thinking about cricket just yet.
It's natural and essential to start thinking ahead to the match in the afternoon. All the preparation is wrapped up the day before but much can be gained from playing scenarios in your head to prepare for any eventuality that occurs on the field. Players will subconsciously start devising a general, yet flexible, plan for the opposition batters and bowlers. It's quite different when you are not in the playing XI, where your preparation now turns to the slight chance that you get pulled in to the team at the last minute.
The real excitement starts at the team meeting. The coach will outline the things we've done well and maybe one or two points that need attention from the last game. Trevor has placed a big emphasis on sticking to a few points that have worked really well for us, mindsets as opposed to actions with a complete belief in each player’s ability and preparation.
Analysis has become an essential tool for preparation and we will go through each player in the opposition team for tonight's match. It's great to hear how some of the best players look at and plan for battle against other great players. It's obviously essential getting input from the international guys but it's the local guys who are most crucial in sharing information about the opposition of whom much less is known. I've heard some great summations on players, maybe a slight case of lost in translation. 'He is like a bowling machine' and 'he looks for full tosses and half-volleys' are my favourite.
Mumbai have a lot of destructive batters and we assess our tactics in fine detail today. We've only played them a few days ago but it's important to have plans suitable to the conditions. The middle-order of Pollard and Smith have been destructive of late and we make sure we have go to plans if either of them get in. Waz seems to be a good observer of the game and is always ready with plans for the bowlers
The team analyst always puts together a compilation of the heroics of previous matches, a final bit of inspiration before we set off to the ground. These are no amateur productions, I must get him to put one on YouTube. There's always some laughter with a celebration or gesture being replayed in slow motion, Yusuf’s bear growl being the most popular. The owners are always there to wish the team well and Shah Rukh has been known to give a few inspiring but lighthearted messages.
Gauti normally wraps the meeting up in a quiet, but sensible and battle-inspiring way. We've not been particularly successful against Mumbai of late and he stresses what a good opportunity this is to step up and deliver.
So on to the bus. There's an unwritten seating code, thrown every now and again by a change in the starting XI but always quickly remedied. Cricketers are creatures of habit and the guys tend to follow the same routines (even subconsciously) in the build-up to a match. It's always very quiet on the bus, most guys listen to music on headphones. I sit behind Jacques and he's very relaxed; he's definitely the most relaxed cricketer I've ever seen. The police escorts ensure a quick journey to Eden Gardens. The sight of people cheering the bus on is the final bit of inspiration before we pull up at the changing rooms.
The change room again has its own dynamic. Some guys go straight for the buffet and like to get a meal in before the match. There's always some music being played and the mood is upbeat, excitable, and expectant. Binga is the changeroom DJ, although from time to time you will see one of the local guys sneak in and play a Hindi number. “Chamak Chalo” seems to be a team favourite, pleasing everyone. Last minute touch-ups to bats and grips, taping and treatment from the physios, arranging of TV interviews, team sheets, spreading of kit and getting booted up all take place in an organised yet chaotic way.
The final bit of prep is done on the field. Some guys like to ease into match time. Yusuf is probably the exception in our team, he likes to spend a decent amount of time facing bowlers prior to the match. As a group we will stretch and do a few fielding drills while waiting for the toss. The toss has not seemed of massive importance this year but they are some venues where the toss is significant. Tonight we lose the toss and are asked to bat.
Our batting was able to struggle along to 140, a deviation from our broad plan. It's no surprise that Malinga is the danger man for Mumbai and the guys did a great job in playing him tonight. Our bowlers managed to sum things up quickly and the decision to play three spinners at Wankhede (out the box) turned out to be a stroke of tactical genius. In today's team meeting TB stressed 'staying in the game' and 'scrapping it out', two key ingredients in achieving what appeared to be a below-par score.
It's a fantastic win and the boys celebrate accordingly; but with caution as its only 2 days till the match-day cycle kicks in again in Pune.