Mohammad Kaif: Backing players ‘the biggest factor’ in Capitals’ winning run

Delhi Capitals has refrained from making too many changes to line-ups this season and has reaped its rewards, says the assistant coach.

Delhi Capitals's bowling attack set up the five-wicket win against Rajasthan Royals, taking the team to second place on the points table.   -  AP

According to Delhi Capitals assistant coach Mohammad Kaif, a big factor in the team’s success in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season is the management’s decision to refrain from making too many changes in line-ups.

“We are backing our players. We have found out our core players who are going to win the matches for us. One or two failures don’t change our minds. We know who the players are. That’s what is probably the biggest change you can see in Delhi Capitals in the IPL; we are a side that decided we will not make too many changes. It brings insecurity in the squad – making changes, chopping players. It’s not good for them; they can’t just go and express the freedom and the skill. Players need to play and improve most times, but when they go out there, they have all the freedom to take decisions at the right times, to read the situations, and play accordingly. That’s what we plan. Backing the players was the biggest factor in this IPL so far,” Kaif told the media at the Feroz shah Kotla here after Capitals’ five-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals.

One player who has lived up to the confidence shown in him is Ishant Sharma. The fast bowler, on Saturday, rattled the Royals top order and took three wickets in the contest. Commenting on Ishant’s bowling this season, Kaif said, “Ishant is a very big factor in our team. With his record in the IPL, some like and some don’t like him. For many years, he has had ups and downs in the IPL. The form he had in Tests – in tours of England, Australia, South Africa – we thought we should take him. He was in form, and therefore we picked him. He has fulfilled our trust in him. He is bowling the knuckle ball, the cutter, and taking wickets. He has made many changes. He’s not just a swing bowler anymore. He has been using a lot of weapons – the cutter, the slower bouncer. He gave away 18 runs towards the end; he wasn’t very happy with that, but he set up the contest for us at the start.”

Also working hard and shining through is Amit Mishra. The seasoned leg-spinner nearly took a hat-trick on Saturday; he ended up with three wickets to be adjudged the Man of the Match. In and out of the side this season, Mishra was grabbing his opportunities to play “with both hands,” Kaif felt.

“Mishra is working very hard, since he is not getting to play every match. He knows there is competition. We have given chances to Sandeep Lamichhane and Jagadees Suchith as well. We have Axar [Patel] and [Rahul] Tewatia as well. So we have lots of spinners. Mishra is a very fluent player; he has been doing well in the IPL. We don’t have any doubts about his ability, but due to the consideration of combinations, he has missed out on quite a few matches. Whenever he got the chances, he has grabbed those opportunities with both hands. Today, too, he bowled a very good spell, and we won,” Kaif said.

The victory gave Capitals its fourth win at home this season. After having lost three out of four matches it played here, it has been a good comeback for the side. Commenting on the turnaround, Kaif said, “It took a while, winning at home. We thought the combination we wanted to have in the squad; we kept trying different combinations. Very happy with the way we played here. When we are travelling, we won lots of matches. On a good pitch, where the ball was coming on to the bat, our bowlers and batsmen both enjoyed the conditions. But we were struggling playing at home but the way we played the last couple of matches here we came out victorious.”

Having successfully tackled its challenges in the league stage, Capitals has the Playoffs ahead of it. But the team mustn’t think too much about the Playoffs, felt Kaif, as it adds to the pressure and proves counterproductive.

“We have to stay in the present. In the last match against Chennai [Super Kings], we were thinking about [qualifying in the first and second place] – we probably took too much pressure on ourselves,” he said.