It always feels really exciting to come back to New Delhi. I love the country and being a part of the Indian Premier League is something that I always look forward to throughout the year. With our franchise, the Delhi Capitals, it has been a bit of a changing of guard – we have new co-owners in the JSW and GMR Groups, a new name for the team; it is a total rebrand. We do also have quite a few changes in the management and the squad. But I feel it’s a really exciting time for our team and it is all going to add up into a really good, successful campaign for the Capitals. We have put together a really fantastic group of players that looks very strong on paper. But like I said to the boys even at the start of last season, it isn’t about how it looks on the paper, but about how well you can perform under pressure that really matters. It is definitely up to me and the other coaches to make sure that the players are well-drilled, with their skills and tactics being up to scratch going into the first game against a strong Mumbai Indians team, which shall prove to be a great challenge for all of us.
However, another challenge that has been talked about in the past few weeks leading up to the tournament has been the past record of the team. There are definitely players in the squad who have been here for some time and they might have some baggage from the previous years, but the real challenge for all of us coaches is to make sure that they are beginning afresh and preparing in the best of environments to be on track for a great campaign over the next eight weeks.
When we talk about the IPL and about our franchise not having had a great deal of success, my point is that not many teams have had that success. It is not an easy tournament to win. The Mumbai Indians, the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Chennai Super Kings have done it consistently in the past few seasons and Sunrisers Hyderabad as well since their revamp. But a lot of other teams have struggled to win the title. It is because it a long, hard road where you play a lot of matches with little rest in between games, along with much travelling, which can cause fatigue. So I believe it is really important that you get the first part of your preparation phase right and, as coaches, we have tried to ensure that we are going into the tournament with the players who are fit and healthy and, more importantly, who are mentally and physically fresh.
Apart from the right preparations, I think the right attitude is also something that I have vouched for during my spell as head coach. When Twenty20 cricket started, everyone thought it’s a young man’s game where just bowling fast and hitting the ball out of the stadium will do the trick. But I believe it is much more than that. It is a format where you have to use your experience according to various situations, and to do what the team expects you to do during the tough phases of the match. You have to also find the right balance between being aggressive and being smart to understand and handle different in-game situations.
The attitude side is something that I continue to push with the players as you have to impose yourself on the opposition and the tournament right from the start. You cannot afford to get off to a slow start and just expect that the game is going to come your way. There is no doubt that this bunch will be looking forward to getting off to a good start, and our focus will then be on maintaining that momentum through the tournament.
Personally, I’ve got great expectations from this group of players, and during the team meetings I have made it clear that my job here is to win the IPL. I did say that last year as well, but it didn’t pan out the way we would’ve wanted it to. But at the end of the day, even with the last season being a disappointing one, we were only that one win away from actually making the playoffs, which is the way this tournament always goes. So, I expect that we can win. It is a message that I reverberate into the squad that everything that we do from now until the end of this IPL season, our focus will be on winning the tournament. Any training session we have, any team meeting we have, it will be for me to make the players better to give them the best chance of winning the coveted trophy.
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