DD CEO: 'Gambhir and Ponting the difference for Delhi this year'

In a free-wheeling chat with Sportstar, Delhi Daredevils CEO Hemant Dua speaks on a range of issues.

The combination of Pointing and Gambhir could prove to be a major filip to DD's fortunes this year, according to DD CEO.   -  AFP

Delhi Daredevils CEO, Hemant Dua, is someone who doesn't mince words off the top of his head. So, when he opened up to Sportstar at the team hotel in Kolkata earlier this week, it did not come as a surprise.

In a free-wheeling chat, Dua speaks on a range of issues, which remained unsaid all this while.

Excerpts…

Delhi Daredevils is one side which goes for an overhaul every season. What's the reason behind this strategy? When do you start planning for the season?

We start the planning as soon as the IPL gets over. We take a break for a few days and then sit again to analyse the whole season. We do a rundown with coaches and take their feedback, based on which you try to figure out what your gaps are.

Once the gaps are defined, that’s where you start your preparation. Then you make a rundown on whether you need to fill in the gaps with domestic or international talents.

For domestic players, you watch all the tournaments, starting from Ranji Trophy, and it goes on to Syed Ali Mushtaq Ali T20. By then the auction happens. You watch U-19 talents. You also have to see that most of the boys from most of the teams, don’t get released. They are either retained or are picked later.

So, the pool you are looking for is really small. That’s where the new kid on the block makes the difference, that’s what we look at. Even that one or two players can make the team. That’s what you keep doing.

We meet once in every two months, analyse the situation, and take necessary steps. Before the auction begins, you are ready with simulations and combinations that you are looking for. And, you try and get those players from the auctions. But then, the auction is a strange beast, so, you don’t know what you would get. You always need to have a plan three or a plan four. That’s what you keep doing and try and execute the plans as much as possible.

The auction is usually held in January or early February. But you said that the list of possible candidates is usually made earlier. What if your auction list is ready and suddenly you see someone storming the circuit. Do you change plans in that case?

We normally try and be away from those sparks, because you don’t know whether they are small sparks — a one-off thing — or is there really something. Always, when a player is there for long and performs at the international and national stages, you would traditionally see his price going up.

As the price goes up, things change. But we try and keep things consistent with the plan and not get deviated. That’s what our gaps were. Earlier, we would get deviated a lot. Now, we have stuck to our guns and have got whatever we wanted. That has paid off. The key to auction is not to have distractions, you have to fix plan and run with it. That’s what it is.

You just talked about distraction. But there is a popular belief in the IPL circuit that Delhi Daredevils jacks up the price of a player and then pulls out. Why's that the case?

Delhi, earlier, was of the view that these are the boys we want to get and came from the people who drive cricket strategies. If somebody wanted some player, we would go all out and get it. It all started post-2011 when we let go of all the big boys we had.

I am not going to say, what was wrong or right, but the key is once you let off big players—there life cycle (as a player) is of 10 years post that. If a player we had, who was 23 that time, in 10 years, he would be 33-34, he would still be playing.

By the time, the new guys come in, it is already two or three cycles. Then you have to bet on the new guys and build them. The big stars are already gone, so that’s why we were always in search of a big guy, who could change the things. That never happened.

So, we decided to move ahead and bet on young guys. The cycle, once it kicks in, helps us in the future. We got lucky when Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals got banned for two years, so we were able to pick some youngsters.

We got Chris Morris as a youngster, we had Sanju (Samson), Karun (Nair), Rishabh (Pant) and Shreyas (Iyer). So, we decided to go with Shreyas and Rishabh. Karun and Sanju are great players, but we could only choose two retentions.

Both of those kids are amazing players, but we decided to keep Rishabh, who is a Delhi boy. There’s a connect, and he started his career with Daredevils. Shreyas also started his career with DD, so there was a natural connection. It was a tough choice and all four are doing well in this IPL. Ideally, if there was a choice, I would have kept all four.

Hemant Dua: "We wanted him (Gambhir), and chats began after he was not retained by Kolkata Knight Riders."   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

 

This time, much before the auction started, there were indications that Gautam Gambhir would lead the side. But all throughout, the franchise denied those claims. When did Daredevils actually decide to go for Gambhir?

We had discussed various options. We wanted him, and chats began after he was not retained by Kolkata Knight Riders. That’s when the talks became a little more concrete and we wanted him since he is a Delhi boy. Even, he agreed to come back.

We made Ricky (Ponting) speak to him and that’s when it all began. You got to be tight-lipped about everything you do in the auction. You cannot make noise. That’s one of the distractions I talked about because other teams are always trying to derail you by sending messages. Have faith in your plans and they will eventually pay off.

There were reports from KKR camp that it left Gambhir because Daredevils requested them to. Is there any truth to it?

Well, that’s between Gautam and KKR. We have him and that’s more important for us. I would not want to comment on that further.

Hemant Dua: "We are lucky to have good people like Pravin Amre and Sridharan Sriram."   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

 

Before the auctions, a lot of scouts spot talents. How does the franchise select the scouts?

It is not about scouts, it is about who understands and who goes around the domestic circuit. We are lucky to have good people like Pravin Amre and Sridharan Sriram. Both of them are good at figuring out domestic talents and know the cricketers really well.

Then there is Sunil Valson, who knows the cricketers up north. He is also on the cricket advisory committee of DDCA, so he knows the north cricketers well.

So, you have basically covered all the zones. But what about East Zone?

We used to send our boys there. But now we have got a few of other cricketers, they keep eyes. We have Subhadeep Ghosh—who’s from Assam — as our fielding coach. He plays more on the Southern side. These guys are good enough, and their collective intelligence helps.

There have been instances when players have found themselves in a spot. Being the CEO, how have you handled situations?

It is very simple. We first try and ensure that players don’t get involved in controversies. We have a strict governance and ethical practice in place. We follow that. Touchwood, none of our players have been involved in controversies and I would like to keep it that way. We are proud of that. What they do in personal lives otherwise is their business.

But those things did affect you this time…

I know. We try and work with the boys and normally try to keep out of all those things and let things simmer and settle on their own. Because at times, if you parachute into them, they create more issues. So, it is better to have a wait and watch policy.

Hemant Dua: "As a player, he (Shami) has been cleared by the BCCI, so he plays."   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

 

But there were reports that Mohammad Shami’s wife, Hasin Jahan, had met you and also requested the team management to take action against the bowler…

I am not going to comment much on it since it is someone’s personal life. Shami’s wife had come and met me. She brought media with her, and they reported that. I knew her as a person. She was with us for two years, she used to travel with us. So, we listened to her and told her that it’s a personal matter, and we cannot intervene.

As a player, he has been cleared by the BCCI, so he plays. On a cricketing side, that’s where the matter stops. I am not going to stop him (from playing) because of personal problems. If I do that, everyone’s personal lives will get immersed.

You cannot mix professional and personal life. Either you settle it between yourselves or there are legal courses. We don’t want to get into someone’s personal life.

Coming back to cricket. You said that things changed post-2011, then why did Daredevils let go of big names then?

I was not there then. But perhaps that’s what the strategy the team management had at that time. It did not pay off for them, so I really can’t comment on it. We are all baffled by it, and I think we are repaying for that.

But with due respect, they must have taken that decision for some reason. They took a call and whatever we had, we got in. We are kind of living with it and I am confident that this year, there will be a turnaround.

You had Gary Kirsten, Rahul Dravid, Paddy Upton as coaches. Why did those names not work out for Daredevils?

Those are cricketers of great repute and experience. Why did it not work out? There are times when nothing works out, then there are times when things work out. So, I can’t comment on that.

They have done brilliantly. Gary is still with RCB. Rahul has done well for India U-19, and he has been a great coach and mentor.

Sometimes some coaches need a lot more time to figure out the plans. I would not read into it too much. T20, especially the IPL, is very demanding and brutal on everybody. So, if it clicks, it is great. If it does not, people try and find faults.

Lastly, this time, what difference has Gambhir brought to the table?

The difference is the combination of Gambhir and Ricky. It is evident in our team. Both of them are champion players and have won trophies. They are both World Cup winning players, so there is a lot of experience and calmness in the team.

They both are professionals and I think that’s reflecting well. Both of them are spending a lot of time with the youngsters and that’s helping them grow. The boys like Shreyas and Rishabh will benefit a lot.

More than them, the youngsters like Abhishek, Prithvi (Shaw), Manjot (Kalra) and all those kids will benefit a lot. They will remember (the experience) for the rest of their lives, how it impacted their cricket as they move forward.

These two gentlemen are very practical. They are doing a great deed not just to the IPL and Daredevils, but to cricket in general.