Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Virender Sehwag, George Bailey, Mitchell Johnson, Rishi Dhawan, Sandeep Sharma, Akshar Patel, Manan Vohra -- at one level, you have to wonder how a team like the Kings XI Punjab... without access to great funds or a brilliant past record managed to get a group like together?
Some might say it was luck -- Maxwell, Sehwag, Bailey -- didn't exactly set the IPL on fire in the previous years. Sandeep, Akshar and Manan are youngsters and one wasn't quite sure of their ability to deliver. Others might say, KXIP were smart and bought impact players. Still more might say that their best move was to make Sanjay Bangar their coach.
In the past, many players have come out and said that the role of a coach is over-rated. And they are right. It is over-rated in a team with an established order -- one in which the seniors know their roles and can even help the youngsters along. But when a professional team comes together just two months before a tournament -- with a completely new squad -- the role of the coach becomes vital.
He becomes a facilitator -- not just in terms of establishing order but also a medium that will allow the the team to gel and move as one unit.
As a player, Bangar was known as 'Buddha' for his calm countenance -- almost nothing ruffled him. As coach, he has pretty much adopted the same manner in the backroom.
"That was a huge responsibility imposed on me. As you know, Adam Gilchrist didn't want to continue either as a player or as a coach and Darren Lehmann had other commitments. So it was left to me to take up the team. It was tough initially but then with these players, it is easy to work," said Bangar.
He has allowed seniors like Virender Sehwag, Johnson and Balaji to play leading roles -- as mentors, while putting faith in young men like Sandeep, Rishi Dhawan and Akshar Patel.
During the first leg in the UAE, Bangar revealed his way of functioning in an interview to the Times of Oman. "I didn't go out there and play, so I think the boys have done exceptionally well in this tournament so far. They need to be given the credit for that achievement, not me," he said.
KXIP have done the simple things well -- they bowl in good areas, their fielding is exceptional and their approach to batting is uncluttered... in the sense that they are always looking to play positively.
During a Google Hangout, George Bailey had spoken about Bangar the coach and it is a very interesting take.
"Great knowledge about the game, a really good thinker, and he doesn't get too emotional -- so when we win he doesn't let us get too far ahead; doesn't let us get too far ahead of ourselves and if don't do as well as we wish, then he doesn't get too despondent. He tracks all the little things that we need to concentrate on. Particularly in T20, when so much comes down to so many little things and that is a really good trait. That calmness is certainly something that all the guys benefit from but is certainly something that helps the younger guys keep their confidence going and in the right direction rather than focusing too much on the past."
Bangar has, of course, been helped by Glenn Maxwell's stunning run of form -- 531 runs in 11 matches is the stuff that dreams are made of. But keeping Maxwell in a good space is important and Bangar has managed that.
In an interview to the Wall Street Journal, Bangar spoke about the decision to push Maxwell up the order.
"The key to unlocking his impact was a proper slot in the batting order. Coming in at number three or four, he is able to maximize his hitting potential — and that has worked for us," he said.
In the same interview, he also shed light on the decision to sign Virender Sehwag when almost no one else wanted him: "I firmly believe Virender Sehwag isn’t anywhere close to the finish line of his glorious career. In fact if you see him hitting the ball in the nets, you will say he has nearly three to four years of cricket left in him. Sehwag brings an exceptional amount of experience to the squad. He may not be leading the side, but he is hands-on with everything that goes on with the team and he takes interest in guiding younger players. We don’t expect anything different from him than from our other players; just consistent performances."
Bangar is the only Indian head coach in the IPL but the manner in which he has used his knowledge of home conditions and local players will probably make some of the other teams do a rethink next season. While he has managed to get the right foreign players, KXIP's local talent has pulled it's weight as well.
Sandeep's 17 wickets (9 matches) are the second best tally in the IPL, Balaji (11 wickets in 7 matches) and Akshar Patel (11 mts, 8 wkts, ER 6.45) have been very effective. Sehwag (280 runs in 11 games) and Wriddhiman Saha (176 runs and some brilliant keeping) have played their roles well.
There was a conscious effort to go for impact players at the auction, Bangar has said. "As far as the overseas players go, we made an effort to go for impact players and maybe because of that, the balance looks quite right."
But little did KXIP know that perhaps the biggest impact on their fortunes would come from their accidental coach.
There is still some way to go but really it's hard not to like the way KXIP play their cricket. It has not just been exciting -- they have also shown the toughness to bounce back from tricky situations and that is why Bangar must be applauded.
Updated Date: May 21, 2014 10:13 AM