Jayawardene and Zaheer elevated to global roles with Mumbai Indians

Mahela Jayawardene has taken up a broader role at Mumbai Indians, as the franchise’s global head of performance. In his new position, Jayawardene will oversee the coaching and scouting at all the three teams the franchise owners now have – Mumbai Indians in the IPL, MI Emirates in the ILT20, and MI Cape Town in the SA20. Zaheer Khan, earlier the director of cricket operations, is now the global head of cricket development for the three teams.

In a statement, the group said that the team management recognised the need for a central team at the helm of affairs because of the company’s expansion to “ensure consistency […] on ethos, values, and learning, that have made MI one of the most loved cricket brands across the globe”.

ESPNcricinfo has learnt that the franchise will shortly unveil the new head coach for the IPL team, a job Jayawardene held since the 2017 edition of the IPL, overseeing three title wins.

Elaborating on the roles and responsibilities of the two men who will be right at the top of the backroom staff, the statement said that Jayawardene would be involved with “overall strategic planning, the creation of an integrated global high-performance eco-system, as well as responsibility for each team’s coaching and support structures, working closely with the team head coaches to ensure synergies, a consistent brand of cricket, and implementation of best practices set by MI.”

Jayawardene has already started work in his new role. Jayawardene was also involved in the process to identify the five direct acquisitions for the SA20 team in August.

Calling the elevation “an absolute honour”, Jayawardene said he looked forward “to this new responsibility to build a strong cohesive global brand of cricket”.

As for Zaheer, he would be “responsible for player development, building on MI’s robust programme around talent identification and grooming and adopting the same across geographies, which has been core to MI’s philosophy and success”.

“MI has been home for me as a player and as a coaching team member, and now as we embark on a new journey, I look ahead to working closely with all the stakeholders in the global network to unearth new potential that can join the family,” Zaheer said.

The streamlining of the top roles in the coaching staff came after the Mumbai Indians owners bought the two new teams.

“I’m happy to have Mahela and Zak as part of our global core team. Both have been an integral part of the MI family and embody the spirit of the cricket MI stands for,” Akash Ambani, chairman of Reliance Jio Infocomm, the owners of Mumbai Indians, said. “I’m confident that they would be able to ensure the same flows through all our teams globally and make a difference in the cricketing ecosystems across the globe.”

The ILT20 and the SA20 will both have their inaugural seasons in January-February next year. The owners felt that the changed circumstances needed one person in charge of the coaching arm globally, a role that best suited Jayawardene because of his extensive experience as an international player and captain, as well as a coach in franchise T20 cricket.

In the IPL, Jayawardene has been the second-most successful coach after Stephen Fleming, who has been with Chennai Super Kings since 2009 and has won four IPL titles with them. The Jayawardene-Rohit Sharma [Mumbai Indians captain] combine has made three IPL playoffs in six seasons and, remarkably won the title each time. They are the only team with five IPL titles and the only team apart from Super Kings to successfully defend the title, in 2020.

Jayawardene and Zaheer have worked closely since the latter joined the support staff at Mumbai Indians in 2018. In 91 matches since then, Mumbai Indians’ win-loss ratio of 1.289 has been the best among the original eight IPL teams. However, Mumbai have struggled for form and consistency in the last two seasons, and finished last in the ten-team event in 2022 where they won just four out of their 14 matches.

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