Aussie nous for Punjab

Adam Gilchrist and Darren Lehmann are guiding KXIP in the right direction.-AKHILESH KUMAR

Adam Gilchrist realised early enough that for an IPL franchise to succeed, the Indian contingent in the team had to be capable of shouldering the major responsibility, writes Nandakumar Marar.

As the most experienced captain among the foreigners in Indian Premier League-6, Adam Gilchrist has witnessed enough T20 drama to realise that for every high, a low is just around the corner. And vice versa. He was in charge from the inaugural IPL onwards - when he replaced an injured V. V. S. Laxman - coming to grips with the essence of T20 batting and reflexive thinking demanded from captains as Deccan Chargers sank to the bottom in 2008.

IN THE NEXT SEASON, Gilchrist and teammates, riding on a momentum, became IPL-2 champions in South Africa. Kings XI Punjab was the Aussie's next port of call. DC coach Darren Lehmann too come on board and, together, the two Aussies are building a new team structure.

Gilchrist, who has also led Australia as a stand-in captain, realised early enough that for an IPL franchise to succeed, the Indian contingent in the team had to be capable of shouldering the major responsibility. Leaders had to be singled out and empowered to take decisions. Gilchrist feels the cap fits Praveen Kumar this time and Lehmann too is of the same opinion.

PRAVEEN OPENED the bowling for KXIP in an away game against Pune Warriors India, got a wicket in the first over and did his bit in the field, taking a steepling catch. For Gilchrist, the India swing bowler is a high value teammate, whose experience and presence are needed for team development. "I rate him among the most skilful swing bowlers in the world. Praveen brings to the team amazing skills."

A LION-HEARTED BOWLER with an aggressive mindset, Praveen was caught in a controversy during the Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy and an adverse report by the match umpire about the Uttar Pradesh star crossing the limits of discipline resulted in the BCCI suspending him from events under its jurisdiction. The punishment was lifted just in time for KXIP to utilise his expertise in making the ball talk.

"I am aware he got himself into hot water outside of IPL. We have no issues in our franchise," explained Gilchrist, about Praveen Kumar donning the KXIP colours. "All players rate him highly. He is taking on a great leadership role with the younger players and has the desire to share his experience and skill," he added.

THE PAKISTAN-BORN Azhar Mahmood, KXIP's all-rounder from England, is also popular in the squad for his ability to converse in Punjabi with youngsters.

Parvinder Awana benefited from Praveen's guidance and together with Ryan Harris, found the right length to exploit the track at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium. Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla chipped in with Robin Uthappa's wicket.

Awana got the prize wicket of PWI skipper Angelo Mathews with an outswinger, which was nicked by the batsman into Gilchrist's gloves. The Delhi Ranji bowler is getting a hang of troubling batsmen in T20, aided by timely inputs from Praveen and Mahmood on and off the field.

"The strength we have gained this year is from the youth and local players," said Gilchrist, delighted at starting the IPL-6 campaign with a win.

"EVERY TEAM NEEDS A BLEND of experience and youth. It is a combination of older players who need not be internationals but Indians familiar with the conditions and of course local talent." Praveen, Awana and Chawla got wickets, as did foreigners Mahmood and Harris