Kolkata: The Indian Premier League 2022 will come back in a bigger avatar with two more teams next year and according to the head honcho of Delhi Capitals - a team whose performance graph had seen a huge upward curve in recent years - it’s a step in the right direction.
‘‘I have always felt that time has come for the IPL to get bigger. With 10 teams, the format becomes bigger with opportunities for more players and support staff. However, the challenge will be getting a bigger window to ensure availability of the players,’’ said Colonel Vinod Bisht, the interim Chief Executive Officer of the franchise.
The Rishabh Pant-led team, which will be taking on Kolkata Knight Riders in Sharjah on Tuesday, has been able to maintain it’s early season momentum in the UAE leg of the campaign and are looking very much a contender to end their search for the elusive crown. It’s been a complete transformation in the franchise’s pre-2019 phase and according to the Capitals official, they have just started reaping the rewards of investing in young talent as well as keeping their faith in continuity.
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Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview over zoom, Bisht looked back at their recent journey: ‘‘You see, any squad building takes time. You have to introduce fresh blood and keep supporting them. When we took Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Prithvi Shaw three years back, they were youngsters but now they are international stars. We had also brought in a blend of experience with with Shikhar Dhawan, Ravi Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane and Axar Patel. While the fresh blood was raring to go, it was also tempered with experience.
‘‘We also roped in Ricky Ponting, a worldbeater in his own right, as head coach and we have started getting the results now.’’
The Capitals, in fact, could be an object of envy of other teams simply for having the trio of Pant, Iyer and Shaw in their ranks - men who are destined to shape the course of Indian cricket across all formats in near future. Asked if they can retain them in the mega auction expected to be held early next year, Colonel Bisht kept his fingers crossed: ‘‘While we are lucky to have them, while the role of our big performers like Dhawan, Patel and Ashwin are equally important to us. However, a lot depends on what would be the likely retention policy as we want to retain the core of this team and build around for the next three-year cycle.’’
Appointed as their interim boss earlier this year, the soft-spoken Bisht brings on to the table more than a decade’s experience in sports management. Realising that they are on the homestretch of a very successful campaign, the team management is now concerned not to let the pressure of expectations creep in at this stage.
‘‘This has turned out to be one of the best seasons for us. However, we need to make sure that this expectation doesn’t burden them. As Rishabh keeps on mentioning before each game that we are only as good as our last match and need to start afresh,’’ he said.
Explaining the pros and cons that they weighed before presisting with Pant as the captain for the UAE leg of the season, Bisht said: ‘‘We again thought about continuity when he retained Pant as the captain. Regarding Shreyas, we thought that he needs to given time to regain his match-fitness and you could see the result in the last two games. He has come back stronger and has been batting with complete freedom.’’
Asked how would they rate Pant’s leadership qualities, the official observed: ‘‘Rishabh brings about an unique quality of keeping the mood light in the dressing room, while he is also free and frank in his assessment of players. However, once on the ground, he is extremely competitive and his attitude rubs off on others.’’
Finally, a word on return of the crowds for IPL? ‘‘See, any performer needs audience as you need immediate feedback. Having fans back in sporting action, not only in IPL but everywhere, is a great thing to have. Fortunately, things have improved a bit around the world with the vaccination and over a period, more and more fans should be seen in other countries,’’ Bisht added.