January 18, 2010

Indian Premier League

The Indian Premier Lead

Aakash Chopra


What was the Kings XI Punjab management thinking when they decided to replace Yuvraj Singh with Kumar Sangakkara? © Associated Press
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Yuvraj Singh has been replaced by Kumar Sangakkara for the top job of Kings XI Punjab for IPL 3. Some may call it a wise decision to ease off Yuvi from the responsibility of leading the side, which, in turn, may result in him prospering as a player. Some (the right wing people) may take it otherwise – “Alas! Yet another ‘essentially-Indian’ Premier League team is to be led by a non-Indian.”

Well, to the detriment of camping with the rightist, I’d insist that perhaps, for once, the wing might just have a point there. My endorsement of it though is based purely on reasons Greek to them. Of course, unlike them, I’m talking cricket.

Now don’t they say – “When in Rome, do as the Romans do!” Let’s face it – a) seven out of 11 playing members of any given IPL team are Indians, b) The setup, right from the board, management and the owner(s) are all Indians, c) Spectators/viewers are also mostly Indians. One certainly needs to understand the dynamics of the IPL. While it boasts of a popular lineup of reputed players, it also proves to be a Mecca for domestic players waiting in the wings to make their big International debut of sorts. Playing along side their Indian idols means a world to them and trust me on this; they would go through a wall for them.

They would certainly not appreciate their heroes getting marginalised, or perhaps, getting a raw deal in the hands of a certain ‘foreigner’. I don’t have to remind you of the furore Brendon McCullum’s choice over Sourav Ganguly created in the last IPL. Deccan Chargers may have lifted the trophy, but were an unhappy side when it came to Laxman not being given the place he ought to get.

Most teams, in any case, hire foreign coaches and if the captain too happens to be a non-Indian, the majority of the players in the team (read Indians) feel that they don’t have a representative in the decision-making process. Yet, this isn’t just about high-riding emotions.

Kevin Pietersen, the Bangalore Royal Challengers captain, had a tough time remembering the names of his seven Indian team-mates. Could you then possibly expect him to understand their individual game, their strengths and weaknesses, and to then exploit it lucratively? Perhaps not, which is why, the team called in Anil Kumble to relieve Pietersen of his duties. A move which did them wonders.

The obvious question of how well informed a ‘non-Indian captain’ is about the Indian playing conditions also pops up, especially now that the IPL is all set to move into unchartered territories like Visakhapatnam and Dharamshala.

So what was the Kings XI Punjab management thinking when they decided to replace Yuvi with Sanga? Stats drop a hint.

Yuvraj’s team, in the last two seasons, hasn’t managed to win the trophy and in this corporate world one failure is enough for a few heads to roll. Captain Yuvi’s animated and overtly aggressive behavior on and off field hasn’t found too many admirers either.

Wonder if all this makes for a strong case against him. In fact, a closer look at the team’s performance might tell a different story. Kings XI Punjab hasn’t done as bad as it is perceived to have. After all, they reached the last four in the first season when Yuvi’s team managed to turn it around after a disastrous start. There weren’t in the bottom two in season two either.

Yes, things could have been better but then most things can be! Also a captain is only as good as his team and Punjab were missing a few key players for the most part of the second season. And the impact was there for everyone to see. Even a magician called Shane Warne could do little (in IPL II) when his resources were limited. A captain can make plans, but the execution depends on a concerted team effort.

I’m neither a fan of Yuvi’s leadership skills nor am I a critic of Sanga’s. In fact I think that Sanga is a level-headed guy with a great knowledge of the game. Yet, I may, in the same breath, also voice my utter disappointment of the way he led Sri Lanka in the last couple of months, all thanks to his tactical bloopers. No, I’m still not holding that against him in my assessment of the issue at hand.

The big question here is about the practicality of such a decision. In my opinion, the owners/coach should strongly consider the option of having an Indian leading the IPL team. Exempting an odd exception of the Rajasthan Royals who couldn’t boast of a single big Indian player. Shane Warne was perhaps their biggest catch and hence became the captain by default. But the other teams aren’t facing such a problem.

Perhaps, the Indian/non-Indian issue may become null and void if the captain happens to be a really good one - someone who’d be willing to go that extra yard to ensure that every member of the team is on the same page; someone who’d cross the language/nationality barrier and gain everyone’s confidence.

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Roshan on (January 29, 2010, 19:14 GMT)

clearly an unwanted issue to be raised...

Posted by ash_76 on (January 26, 2010, 13:12 GMT)

The IPL is a complete farce it should be boycotted. The ECB should invest more heavily in its 20/20 tournment and really show the Indians on how to manage the league independent of goverment influences, political stances or region or religous influences. Something the Indians need to learn quickly to avoid further embarassing moments. But its a good larve sitting here and watching them make fools of themselves.

Posted by Pratik on (January 22, 2010, 6:44 GMT)

Oh C'mon - last time yuvi himself mentioned that captaincy is taking a toll on him and dont forget the RR....people loves Warne around the country...so i don't think there is any issue around here unless we make something out of it.

Posted by sami on (January 22, 2010, 6:25 GMT)

i think that sangakara is a good captain and he has more experience as a captai in international.second laxman was not in form and he needed to be replace and after that gilchrist was the senior player and he deserved it .and let me tell the owners of the club wants to win it not like the other narrow minded people if a foreighner deserve he should captain the team last but not the least india is coached by a foreign coach.india should be making aakash chopra the coach.

Posted by Udbighna Unmilana Patnaik on (January 21, 2010, 22:11 GMT)

Hi, Akash,

your point is very valid one, if the IPL is the booster of T-20 cricket, no doubt we are very strong for our domestic players ratio in each team, some thing like validation needs to be done for captaincy, as such we need a good leader also but this IPL trend is going other way, they want to create new resources not leaders.

Here the IPL vision is just inclined for Money and fame only as per my observations.

Thanx and Regards Udbighna

Posted by Raater Akash on (January 21, 2010, 18:33 GMT)

In the first season there were 7 Indian captains and 1 Foreign captain (shane warn, RR), Champion Rajasthan Royals (Warne), in the second season there were 5 indian captain, champion Deccan chargers, captain (gilchrist).....

Posted by raj on (January 21, 2010, 16:47 GMT)

australian player should not be the capktain as they behave rudely with indians and their people treats does not cooperate with indian dyring match

Posted by Kamran on (January 21, 2010, 16:11 GMT)

Akash, I like to read your take on Pakistan IPL snub, also do you think its not dupe hypocrisy when Wasim Akram is a Pakistani and bowling coach for KKR?

Posted by Chinmay on (January 21, 2010, 6:20 GMT)

The captain of the team has to be the person who is best suited for the job. Indians have an advantage because one would think they know the local players a bit, but that doesn't mean foreigners can't captain an IPL side effectively and get the best out of the team. Shane Warne is the best example of this.

The players I'd like to see captains are: Bangalore - Kumble Chennai - Dhoni Deccan - Gilchrist Delhi - Gambhir (Sehwag has already resigned) Kolkatta - Ganguly Mumbai - Tendulkar Punjab - Sangakkara Rajasthan - Warne

Posted by zakir on (January 21, 2010, 4:55 GMT)

i agree with you akash ipl teams should have indian captains but if there is no one in the team with the potential to lead the team then it is better to go for a worthy foreign captain rather than a unworthy indian captain. kolkatta knightrides's decision of making mccullum captain was justified because there was no other indian player who is best established in t20 format.sourav is a good test captain and one day too,but t20 is a different format and i think he wil lack something in it. as far as kX1 punjab is concerned they could have considered irfan pathan or even piyush chawla too. but finally i would like to conclude a captain should be selected for the best results irrespective of their nationality.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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