Deccan Chargers catch the last straw, will it drown or survive?

By TS Sudhir

By the time Deccan Chargers found a plug point in Kamla Landmarc, a Mumbai-based realty firm, it was too late. The BCCI which had set the deadline of 5 pm on Friday to pay 100 crore rupees as bank guarantee, decided to pull the plug.

Deccan Chargers. RIP.

But strangely for a city that has lost its presence in the annual summer cricket carnival called the Indian Premier League (IPL), there are few tears shed for Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad today. That says a lot about how the Deccan Chargers management could never get the city's cricket lovers to 'own' the team, leave alone 'whistle podu' for it, like its southern counterpart.

The lost glee. Getty Images

PR Mansingh, who was manager of the 1983 World Cup winning team does not mince words when he dismisses Deccan Chargers' exit as a development of no consequence. "It does not matter to Hyderabad cricket at all. They have not been promoting Hyderabad cricketers at all. I am certain the city won't grieve over losing its IPL team,'' he says emphatically.

Much of this emphasis is rooted in what happened in the last five years on and off the field. A former Hyderabad cricketer who was involved with the franchise in the first season points to serious lapses in taking cricketing decisions. The franchise did buy some brilliant cricketers like Adam Gilchrist, Hershelle Gibbs, Andrew Symonds, Shahid Afridi, Rohit Sharma in the first season but the inability to click as a unit was evident. The management erred by equating T20 cricket with slambang cricket that needed only batsmen and did not pay much attention to its bowling pack. In many matches, its bowlers could not defend decent totals on batting-friendly Indian tracks. The Deccan Chargers Bulls ended at the bottom of the table, completely discharged.

Season 2 however brought some cheer when the team did a turnaround on South African pitches, winning the title. They carried the momentum into the next season, ending fourth. And then the bears took over, with DC proving to be also-rans in the subsequent two seasons.

Those who interacted with the team owners during this period say they found them disinterested in running the show. City league cricket is a lot about showing emotion and a desperation to win. DC seemed more content in making up the numbers.

A huge problem for DC also was the paucity of quality local talent. By the time IPL happened, the Hyderabad Ranji team had lost most of its players to the rebel Indian Cricket League, who were then banned by the BCCI. The few good players who blossomed like Pragyan Ojha and T Suman did not bother to stick around with Hyderabad and chose to move to Mumbai Indians, exposing the inability of the franchise to hold on to talent.

Kanwaljit Singh, who was assistant coach with DC in all the five seasons, argues it is the players who decide to seek greener pastures. "Remember, DC played an important role in Ojha getting back into the Indian team. Suman's talent was used well by the team,'' he says. An off-spinner of great repute, Kanwaljit regrets summers will never be the same again for Hyderabad cricket lovers.

But there is no denying the fact that DC squandered away a wonderful opportunity to create a brand. VVS Laxman did the owners a huge favour when he chose not to be an icon player, just so that the franchise had more money to buy players. Yet the way DC treated the elegant batsman was an eyesore, first benching him, then removing him from captaincy and finally not buying him again in season 4. Even when they had a chance to make amends when Kochi Tuskers became history, DC let Laxman go through the humiliation of remaining unsold. Little surprise that there are few mourners at Deccan Chargers' funeral.

And in the last couple of seasons, the Hyderabadi DNA of Deccan Chargers was sought to be diluted. DC was playing only a few of its home matches in Hyderabad, playing also in Cuttack and Visakhapatnam. For a format that gains strength from the loyalty of its city fans, DC was clearly spreading itself thin. As a branding strategy, it had disaster written all over it.

DC's termination would mean players like Dale Steyn and Kumar Sangakkara would shift allegiance to a different franchise next season. That would indeed be the sensible decision especially for Steyn who suffered several heart attacks on the field last season, seeing clumsy fielders drop sitters off his bowling. DC came across as an ill-prepared bunch, that did not take pride in representing a city in the big ticket league.

DC's detractors in the last five years have often referred to the team as Dhakkan Chargers. Quite true as the BCCI indeed has put the lid on the Dhakkan ... err ... Deccan Chargers story.

(Editor's note: This copy was written before Deccan Chargers got the temporary reprieve after a court-appointed arbitrator extended the deadline till Wednesday)