November 21, 2020 9:00:25 am
After the lockdown, it took me 30-45 days to get back in my zone. The way Mumbai Indians planned our preparation, it was unbelievable. It was raining here in Mumbai when our camp resumed. There was waterlogging in Mumbai, but despite those conditions we managed practice at the Reliance ground.
We were batting under a giant tent which was put up. So bowlers were running off their full run-ups and bowling to us on a turf wicket. There were days when it was raining outside and we were batting in the tent made especially for us.
I know many players whom I used to talk to going to the IPL without any practice. The best part of MI is that they always want to stay one step ahead. We had three kinds of wickets for practice. We had a black soil wicket, a red soil wicket, and one completely batting-friendly wicket. By the time we reached UAE, we were all prepared mentally.
They kept everyone safe, which was important. From food and entertainment to the guy who was driving us, everything was quarantined. At the same time, the hotel staff was like an extended family.
MI had arranged a chef for us who could cook food like we have at our homes. Many a time, players do get bored after a point eating the same food. So whatever dish one wanted to get cooked like home, the chef used to cook it that way.
Be it ghar ki dal or chicken. In the team room every alternate day, we used to have a chaat corner. If anyone wanted to have pani-puri, there was a separate counter. On Dussehra, we had all kinds of sweets in the team room. We also had a barber from the UAE. If anyone had a birthday, we all celebrated together. These are small things which mattered a lot.
Many teams didn’t allow families but MI even allowed kids to be there. MI understood why family was important. They understood that players need someone who can give them the mental support once they are back from the game. It was a big group.
Whenever we used to meet in our team room, it used to be like a mela. We are back home now but everyone is still in touch with each other. It’s a bond which I didn’t find in the previous two years.
In normal times, we used to return from a game and sit in our rooms. May be go out. Families were allowed earlier too for a brief period, but they used to leave later on. Many a time when we had bad game, we didn’t find someone to talk to in the room.
This time we couldn’t go anywhere as we were part of the bubble, so it gave us time to understand everyone. We discussed everything with other families, and these things reflected on the ground. These small things matter a lot.
People go by what they see on the ground but what happens behind the scenes matters. I could feel the difference in our performance because we were all happy.
At the same time, my wife ensured that I switched off from cricket. We never talked cricket once I was back.
Once we entered the team room, we never discussed cricket there. We never carried it to the next game.
We were always fresh. For the first seven games, we had seven different players getting the Man of the Match award. And in those seven games, it’s the other players’ families who enjoyed the success.
They used to push other players. Such was the environment. After every game, we used to get together and watch other IPL games, sometimes movies, in the team room. When we were in the UAE, we used to sometimes miss home but now that we are back here (in India), we are missing UAE. Life has suddenly become slow now. I am getting the same feeling I had in March-April.
(As told to Devendra Pandey)
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