Pietersen to lead Bangalore Royal Challengers
Kevin Pietersen has been named captain of the Bangalore Royal Challengers, ending the uncertainty over who would lead the side in the IPL's second season. Jacques Kallis, the South African allrounder, will take over when Pietersen leaves for England's home series against West Indies, which begins in the first week of May.
Vijay Mallya, the franchise chairman, said the decision was taken after extensive consultations with Rahul Dravid, the captain in the first season. The team performed poorly last season, finishing second from bottom with four wins from 14 games, and Dravid, also its "icon" player, came in for some flak for the composition of the squad.
However, Dravid could miss the tournament as he is expecting the birth of his second child. "It was a very practical decision, and he [Dravid] is himself very relaxed about it," Mallya said.
Pietersen was widely expected to be named the team captain after Mallya pursued, and netted, him in the auction last month for $1.55 million. The only doubt was his relatively short period of availability because of international commitments - which then raised the question of who would deputise for him.
"We had six international captains to choose from," Mallya said. "The decision on captaincy was taken keeping in mind three considerations: player's availability, flexibility in the squad selection during the phases and the fact that Dravid may not be available for the entire tournament."
Pietersen, while agreeing to captain Bangalore, had recently told Sky Sports that he would turn down any offer to lead England in the World Twenty20 in June. When asked by former England captain Nasser Hussain: "What about the ICC World Twenty20 in England, if they say, 'Kevin, look, we desperately need you to captain'?" Pietersen replied: "No."
Bangalore was referred to as a "Test team" last season as a result of their disappointing performance but Mallya was confident his team would perform far better. "We were not balanced last year and had a weak batting line-up," he said. "We have Pietersen, who some reporters have referred to as the 'world's finest batsman', and Jesse Ryder, who is doing well. We have a quality bowling line-up with the likes of Dale Steyn and Nathan Bracken. We are no longer a Test team but one qualified for Twenty20 cricket."
Mallya also felt his team would not be weakened by the absence of Zaheer Khan, who was traded for Robin Uthappa with the Mumbai Indians franchise.
The IPL's second season is currently in considerable doubt itself over security issues but Mallya sounded bullish about the outcome. "I don't believe the IPL will be cancelled," he said. "Too many stakeholders will be disappointed if it is cancelled. I think a solution will be found."
When asked how badly the current recession had affected the franchises, he said the scale of bids in the IPL auctions in Goa in February were an indication of how little an impact the economic crisis had had on the tournament.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo