Taking over the reins at Kings XI Punjab, this will be Sanjay Bangar’s first stint as an IPL franchise coach. He talks to Bharat Sundaresan about the process of reassembling the team from scratch, the hefty pay-cheque handed out to Rishi Dhawan and the rationale behind roping in Sehwag and Pujara.
Ness Wadia had revealed that Kings XI’s strategising had begun in November itself. What was your role during the preparation phase for the auction?
I did a lot of talent scouting by watching Ranji Trophy matches, specially from the quarterfinal stage. What also worked to my advantage was that I was playing till last year. So I knew about the domestic players and how they react under match circumstances. We also were intent on building on the work laid down by former coaches and senior players like Vikram Rathore, Darren Lehmann and Adam Gilchrist. Generally if there’s a change in the coach, he tries to bring in a whole lot many changes. But I was in constant consultation with Rathore, trying to pick his brains about what he thought of certain players. He had selected a whole lot of players who eventually ended up in Kings XI. I also exchanged many mails with Lehmann to get his views.
Did you therefore have a lot to do with the big money spent on Rishi Dhawan and Gurkeerat Mann?
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I think what worked in Rishi and Gurkeerat’s favour is that they had performed well at the IPL level. It’s one thing to be a good talent and then to deliver under all the pressure and hype. Rishi did so consistently for Mumbai Indians. Gurkeerat on the other hand is just flowering for Punjab. At the end of the day, one deserves what he’s destined to get. You can’t control the price on anybody on any commodity so I’m glad that he got rewarded. It’s pleasing to see domestic players who toil so hard under tough conditions being acknowledged in the auction. At the same time, a kid in Himachal sees what’s happened to Rishi Dhawan and takes cricket seriously as a career, then there is a paradigm shift in how people think about sport.
You had retained two batsmen in David Miller and Manan Vohra. How did you go about rebuilding the rest of the team?
In most auctions, on both days, the game gets over within the first half. You have to act really fast. We started off by getting a player of Virender Sehwag’s calibre at a very reasonable price (Rs 3.2 crore) and then a few things also went our way and we got lucky on a few occasions.
So was Sehwag always in your plans?
No, I think you can never go into an auction with a pre-set idea. You have to keep your options open and be flexible. Economically, I think we surely wanted someone like Sehwag. And I’m confident that he’ll come to the party. Playing domestic cricket can at times be demotivating for someone who’s played international cricket for so long. This IPL will motivate him to try and just play the way he wants to.
You’ve played limited-overs’ cricket against Pujara (who was bought for Rs 1.9 crore). How do you rate him in the shorter formats?
I’m of the belief that if somebody can play as well as he does at the international level against world-class bowlers, then he has a high chance of succeeding in any other format too. He is a batsman who’s suited to bat in the top-order or as an opener without a doubt, so that is where we will eventually try him to maximise his potential.
You’ve also got someone like Mitchell Johnson who’s really hot right now and a power-player in Glenn Maxwell?
We are delighted to have Johnson, a champion cricketer in the form of his life. We got a bit lucky with him because we were not sure whether we will acquire him with Mumbai keen to hold onto him. In the end it went well for us, considering that the IPL could be played in South Africa. Maxwell is a brilliant package. He is probably the top fielder in the world and also a handy, useful spinner, which adds a lot of value to the team. We also got another bargain buy match-winner in Thisara Perera.
One formula of building a team is picking a captain and building a team around him. Was George Bailey’s purchase in that scheme of things?
We never really went in with the intention of having him (Bailey) captaining the side. We were more intent on getting the best possible players in the mix and look at our captaincy options from that lot later.
Wadia spoke about how a ‘penny saved was a penny earned’ in the auction. Was it a case of aping the Rajasthan Royals model?
We obviously learn from each other. It’s not a big field, and no matter how hard you devise your strategy it’s a level playing field. Most teams are well-balanced. With all the indecisiveness about where the IPL will be played—India, UAE or South Africa—I think we have gotten a balanced outfit.