New Delhi: Rahul Dravid, the former India captain and current India A and Under-19 coach, will mentor the Delhi Daredevils side in the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the team announced on Tuesday. The franchise also appointed Paddy Upton as head coach, to replace Gary Kirsten, hoping for a change of fortunes in the upcoming IPL after three disappointing seasons.
The announcement marks the return of Dravid-Upton combination which did well for the now suspended Rajasthan Royals. Dravid had also captained the Royals to the last four stage twice in the IPL.
Besides the high-profile announcement, former Mumbai opener Zubin Bharucha, who was earlier part of Rajasthan Royals, was named as the technical director of the side.
Former India players Pravin Amre and Sridharan Sriram remained part of the support staff alongside T A Sekar. The squad will undergo a camp here in two phases with the first phase beginning today at the Teri Ground.
Daredevils had released their star player Yuvraj Singh and sacked head coach Gary Kirsten after a disappointing 2015 when they finished seventh out of eight teams. The Delhi franchise had finished last in 2013 and 2014.
Dravid said he is looking forward to working with the Delhi side even though he had a 'very special time' at the Rajasthan Royals.
"It is an exciting opportunity. I have never had the opportunity to play for Delhi but have played against them and coached against them, and you always looked them and thought there is so much potential. From what I see, the Daredevils have assembled a young and exciting squad and along with the support staff, I am hoping for a successful season," said Dravid.
Asked whether it is a long term association with the Daredevils, the batting great said: "Everything is dependent on a lot of things so we will take one step at a time. As of now, I am looking forward to the next three months and we will take the future as it comes."
MS Dhoni had no qualms in saying that he will miss playing for Chennai Super Kings, other team which was suspended for two years in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal. Dravid too has fond memories of his time at Rajasthan Royals.
"I have got fond memories there (of Royals). It is pretty obvious why the opportunity came. I thought I won't be involved in the IPL for the next couple of years. It is natural (to feel the connect) if you spend five years at any place.
"Having said that, I am looking forward to building some great associations at Daredevils. I have known some of the people here for a long time. Hopefully, we can have a good season," said Dravid, who is also India A coach and recently guided the U-19 boys at the World Cup.
Some of the players Delhi bought at the February auction were Pawan Negi (Rs 8.5 crore), Rishabh Pant, Karun Nair and Sanju Samson after retaining the likes of J P Duminy, Quinton de Kock, Mohammed Shami and Mayank Agarwal.
Asked what went wrong for Delhi in the last three seasons and his plans for the upcoming season, Dravid said: "It is very hard to pinpoint from outside and say where things have gone wrong. The nature of T20 is extremely fickle. You might have all your plans but sometimes it just doesn't work.
"Delhi were unfortunate to lose a few close games last year including one against us (Rajasthan Royals). Sometimes it doesn't necessarily mean that there is something seriously wrong when results don't go your way. What I will say is that we will try and create an environment which allows players to express themselves and play a brand of cricket that excites the fans of Delhi."
Dravid will have Royals colleague Upton for company besides youngsters like Sanju Samson and Karun Nair.
"I wasn't involved in the auction process at all. I think team that was involved spent quite a bit of time looking at the young domestic talent and the decision they took was to go down and take a younger route, which is something I am excited about," he said.
The squad has as many as four wicketkeepers in Quinton de Kock, Sanju Samson, Risabh Pant and Sam Billings.
"All of them are quality players. If you talk about De Kock, Samson and Pant, all three of them are very good batsmen. They hold their own as batsmen in most teams. You might end up seeing two of them playing as batsmen and the other one as wicket-keeper.
"There is also Sam Billings. He doesn't keep a lot for England because Jos Butler keeps. And all four good fielders and good batsmen," said Dravid.