One of the most refreshing stories to emerge out of the IPL season in 2014 is the performance of the Kings XI Punjab who have literally taken the tournament by storm with their fearless brand of cricket with a young, hungry team. However, the man behind the remarkable change in fortunes of the Kings XI Punjab, Sanjay Bangar, keeps a low profile and does not try to take any credit for the success of the team that he has managed so astutely over the past few weeks. Now, one thing that needs to be pointed out, in spite of his reluctance to take any credit is the fact that Bangar has certainly been the unsung hero for the Kings XI Punjab by creating the strategies, picking the right players and also by helping the team acquire unheralded but highly talented domestic players at the auction, that has all contributed towards the success the team has enjoyed.
The Backroom Dynamics
The IPL is a tournament in which the Indian players in the squad also have to be of a certain level in order to make sure that a team is able to pull off good performances since at the end of the day the maximum number of foreign players one can field in the playing eleven is only 4. In this regard Kings XI Punjab was at a clear disadvantage. They certainly did not have the sort of money to splurge on Indian cricket stars since most of them had been retained and those who were available were hugely overpriced. However, the keen eye that Sanjay Bangar has for young talent and his deep knowledge of the domestic cricket scene (he only retired 2 seasons ago) made it possible for the Kings XI Punjab to unearth players who might have slipped under the radar. As a result Kings XI could call on the services of such excellent talents like Akshar Patel, Shivam Sharma, Sadeep Sharma, Karanveer Singh and others. Bangar was the key to those picks.
Now, Bangar has not only been effective in assembling an excellent squad but he has also turned the Kings XI from the ‘nearly men’ of the IPL into a team that could challenge the big boys on an equal footing and that he has been done by allowing the players to do what they are good at doing. He has himself said that he does not try to curb the way players approach a game and hence players like Vohra, Maxwell, Sehwag or Miller are allowed to go for their shots from the start while players like the captain George Bailey who can stage a rearguard fightback are kept in the lower middle order in order to check the fall of wickets if things go awry. After all, it is a 20 over game and it is unlikely that a team would be bowled out that often. The thinking is precise and to the point. Needless to say, the Kings XI have reaped rich rewards.
Why is it a Game Changer?
For a long time it was a firmly held belief among the IPL franchises that only the coaches recruited from foreign shores could cut it in the tournament and the track record of the tournament does supports that theory. However, Bangar has smashed that theory on his own by guiding the Kings XI to their first final- a feat that could not be achieved over the last 6 seasons under foreign coaches. Due to the success of this unassuming former cricketer, it will open up a wealth of opportunities for former Indian cricketers who will be given the responsibility of taking care of IPL franchises. Currently some players are in fact involved in the set up like W .V Raman with the KKR, Robin Singh with the Mumbai Indians and others but the head coach’s job is what really matters. If some of these coaches could make that leap then it would eventually help Indian cricket since some of them could then be considered good enough for the national team. For the record, India has not had an Indian coach since the year 2000.
By Soham Samaddar