From rebuilding the squad to forging a style: Andrew McDonald's blueprint for Rajasthan Royals

The newly-appointed Rajasthan Royals head coach talks about the blueprint that will give the IPL franchise a shot at winning the title next season.

Andrew McDonald signs his Rajasthan Royals contract, taking over as the IPL franchise's head coach from Paddy Upton.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Coaching a franchise in the Indian Premier League is a difficult task and Rajasthan Royals’ newly-appointed head coach, Andrew McDonald, is up for the challenge.

The 38-year-old, who has an envious track record in coaching -- McDonald guided Victoria to the Sheffield Shield title in the 2016-17 season, while he led the team to its domestic treble last summer and also helped Melbourne Renegades win its maiden Big Bash League title last season -- believes that the first task is to get the right players for the IPL.

“We have had some clear discussions on how we want the team potentially to play and the style of cricket we want to play,” he says.

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Andrew McDonald's coaching helped Melbourne Renegades lift the Big Bash League title last season.   -  Getty Images

In an exclusive chat with Sportstar -- his first with any Indian media outlet since taking charge -- McDonald talks about the season ahead and his plans with the Royals.

With the trading window closing on November 14, most of the franchises have already made their moves in terms of trading players. So far, Rajasthan Royals hasn’t done any trading. What’s the strategy for the season?

It’s all in the process at the moment, in terms of retention and discussing the way forward for the team. The deadline is next month, everyone is working through what we need, what’s viable in the market place. It’s all about improving the squad for the style of cricket that we feel can win the IPL. That’s all under consideration at the moment, and that’s where all the discussions are hovering around at the moment. How we can improve Rajasthan Royals.

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What are your challenges and targets for the season ahead?

Improvement is the big thing. Any time you can improve, from year to year, with your list in terms of your performance, as we saw only last year small improvements could have meant that Rajasthan could have made the top four. And if you’ve made the top four, then you have a genuine chance of going all the way as was seen in the past. So, every team at the start of the year would be looking to make the top four. Finals would be an indication of improvement, something that’s a realistic challenge for the group in terms of captaincy.

Despite having some top players in its ranks, Royals failed to make it to the play-offs last year. Now, with the auctions scheduled to be held on December 19, what’s going to be the road map for the franchise?

We will assess where we are at in terms of leadership, in terms of the group that’s available for that window and so we’ll be having those discussions. Clearly with the team (faltered) last year so we are working through candidates for captaincy moving forward. These are the thoughts that matter at the moment. 

So, there could be a change in leadership? Are there going to be any major changes this time around?

We have had some clear discussions on how we want the team potentially to play and the style of cricket we want to play. The next thing is executing the list that matches that. If we are unable to secure the players or the proper players, who we feel can execute our style of cricket, then potentially we will have to look at players we contract for the upcoming season to built a style of cricket that best suits them. There are two ways of looking at it -- you have to recruit the players who play your style of cricket or you recruit the best players and figure out the style of cricket that you think would be best for that group at that point of time. So will probably bounce and add a few different plans, few different styles of cricket throughout the tournament as well. With the nature of IPL being a long tournament so there will be some mixing and matching of teams and we’ll be quite dynamic in terms of the way that we think from game to game.

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You were a part of Royal Challengers Bangalore last year, but now, coming into a new franchise, how do you plan to bond with the support staff -- most of which are Indians -- and also the local players?

Challenges that we’ll face in the upcoming tournament as a new coach coming in is really the connection with the group, not only the players but also the staff members that I will be working with. So getting to know them in the lead up to the tournament is pretty cool. I’m particular with the challenges of the short field into the tournament without access to players only a couple of weeks after the tournament. So, that will be a big challenge. Then also putting a list together. We’ve got retention coming up and then clearly, the auction and at some stage leading to mixed IPLs as well, so putting a list of players together that can implement a style of play that you think will win and take you to the business end of the tournament so, they are probably the key challenges that we’ll have weighing in particularly as a new coach coming in to that environment.