Gilchrist to captain Kings XI Punjab
Adam Gilchrist, the former Australia wicketkeeper, will be the captain of Kings XI Punjab for the fourth season of the IPL, the Punjab coach Michael Bevan has said. Bevan said Punjab bought Gilchrist, who led Hyderabad to the trophy in the IPL's second season, specifically for his leadership skills. Gilchrist was bought on the first day of the auction for $900,000.
"The main reason we picked him was because he is the captain," Bevan, who was appointed Punjab coach four days before the auction, said. He also brushed aside any fears of form or fitness issues Gilchrist might have considering he is the second oldest player in the IPL at 39 years. "Even if he is not at the peak of his career, I still feel as a leader he has a lot to offer. In Twenty20 cricket you are not asking the guy to strike at 120 in the opening position. You are asking for guys to strike at 140 or 150 and Gilly is the type of player who can turn in three or four match-winning performances over the season."
It was Gilchrist who contacted Bevan, with whom he played alongside in the 1999 and 2003 World Cup winning sides, as soon as he heard the news. "He pretty much rang back straightaway and has been involved in the team-building process in the auction after that. That is a great sign; him lending his experience with some of the players he has played with. As a coach, you want your captain immersed in what we are trying to achieve."
Gilchrist was the first player bought by Punjab, on January 8. They proceeded to buy 10 more players, with only four Indian players, the backbone of any IPL team, adding wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik, batting allrounder Abhishek Nayar, legspinner Piyush Chawla and seamer Praveen Kumar.
Bevan reckoned spending big money on some of the Indian players might have been a gamble, but he did admit he was new at the IPL poker table. "I was not sure paying two million for a really good player would pay off, but we will wait and see." Punjab had at their disposal a purse of $9 million, but came out of the auction with $2.17 million left unspent. Though he did not say it plainly, Bevan confessed Punjab might have erred in not risking more money on players. "Perhaps we misread the market a little and misread the pricing. There was some fever-pitch bidding, with Indian players going for sky-high prices which we never expected."
Even though he knew Indian players would go for pretty high prices because there were only 48 of them, Bevan was surprised by how much some of the younger players got. "There was always going to be a premium on the Indian players. We were happy to go with some good solid younger players, but even they went for lots of money."
Punjab lost out on several players whom they started to bid for, only to be outbid by other franchises. Mahela Jayawardene, who played for them in the first three seasons of the IPL, was bought by Kochi for $1.5 million after Punjab had made a $1.4 million bid. They bid the same amount for Yuvraj Singh, Punjab's captain in the first two seasons and their icon player, only to lose him to the new Pune franchise for $1.8 million. They also lost bidding wars for Australia allrounder Cameron White, India batsman Rohit Sharma, and allrounder Irfan Pathan, who was part of their team for the first three seasons.
Bevan pointed out that the team owners had decided to stick to a certain budget. "As a coach you also got to go with your budget constraints and hence we had to work out the pricing. It is all part of the big picture. It is just not having the ability to get anyone you want."
Punjab will now have to fill up the rest of their squad with the uncapped Indian players and India Under-19 players.
Bevan admitted that taking over as the Punjab coach is the most high-profile job he has ever done, and said the fact he entered late into the piece meant he was a little bit nervous before the auction. But he remains confident of Punjab's prospects because of the presence of Gilchrist.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo