Mohali: Former India opener and current Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) mentor Virender Sehwag on 6 April said that he would want a bowler to become national team captain after Virat Kohli.
Sehwag made this point while responding to a question during a press conference ahead of KXIP's opening Indian Premier League (IPL) match against Delhi Daredevils here on Sunday.
Asked what he expects of Ravichandran Ashwin's captaincy of KXIP this season, Sehwag said, "I have played with him and I know the kind of mindset he has. He is the right choice to be captain of Punjab team.
"I am a great fan of a bowling captain. I watched Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram as captains. In India generally you don't give captaincy to bowlers, but hopefully after Virat (Kohli) some bowler will become the captain (of national team)," he added.
Talking about the KXIP team, Sehwag said, "We have the best team, if I compare last ten years. The team is a balanced one with right mix of Indian and foreign players.
"We have a set of players who believe in dealing in sixes and boundaries, they don't believe in singles," Sehwag joked as Chris Gayle was seated next to him.
Asked if it is a challenge as a mentor to handle the junior and senior players, Sehwag said for him he treats all players at par -- be it Gayle or youngest domestic member Mayank Dagar.
"I make sure that everybody is comfortable and that they get their own space and do whatever they want to do, which later helps them in giving their 100 per cent. Off the field we are very cool, we make sure that our colleagues laugh and crack jokes," said Sehwag, whose designation is Director-Cricket Operations.
Key batsman K L Rahul said he was not looking at IPL as a platform to prove himself in a bid to cement his place in the national team.
The 25-year-old Rahul, who was bought for Rs 11 by KXIP, said his focus was to make sure that his team reaches the play-off stage first and then goes on to win the tournament.
"I take IPL as IPL and not a tournament where I have to showcase or prove anything to anybody. It is a new team for me and I want to contribute and make sure that our team reaches the play-offs in the tournament. Hopefully, I can help Kings XI win the tournament, that is my focus," he said.
"With the kind of competition there is around, I don't think anybody in the Indian team is a sure shot. It's always going to be difficult, but that's the challenge you want to improve yourself as an individual and as a sportsman everyday."
The team has many new faces including skipper Ashwin, Gayle, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman and a few others.
"This is a new team, we promise to entertain and we promise to bring in a new brand of cricket. We will go out there and expresses ourselves and play aggressive cricket, that is what has been stressed about. Everybody wants us to win and we will put our best foot forward," said Rahul.
Asked about additional responsibility of keeping wickets, he said, "It is going to be a little hard on the body as I don't keep regularly through the year, but as a player you want to be challenged every day. I have already been working on my wicket keeping".
"It is a team sport and whatever role your team wants you to take, you have to be ready," he said.
Also present at the press conference were KXIP head coach Brad Hodge, CEO Satish Menon and some of the team sponsors.
Gayle said he was looking forward to a lot of entertaining cricket.
"It is a good squad and a good all round team," he said.
Asked if he was hurt at being picked at the last moment in the Players' Auction, Gayle jokingly said, "Well, I hope to hurt the bowlers.
"It is not going to be about Chris Gayle, it is going to be about team effort. Everyone has a role to play," Gayle added on a serious note.
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Hit by a barrage of injuries through the series, India picked debutants Washington (3/89) and medium pacer T Natarajan (3/78) in the playing eleven on Friday.
The 35-year-old right-hander from Karnataka had scored just 196 runs in 12 matches in the last IPL in UAE after being picked up by Rajasthan Royals at the last IPL auctions.
Since the IPL final is also expected to be played around the same dates, it could have complicated the quarantine schedule of the participating players.