Kolkata: It looks like another season of IPL is going to end in disappointment for Punjab Kings - though KL Rahul’s men are technically still not out of the running for play-offs for the 2021 season. Ness Wadia, the industry baron and one of the co-owners of the franchise, is hopeful of a ‘miracle’ but is rather disappointed at the inconsistent performance of the team yet again in the UAE.
‘‘Play-off chances always exist - you never know that’s going to happen. While I admit that it’s easy to sit outside and criticise, more application has to come from certain players during certain times. Eventually, this is a professional sport and one has to perform at the highest level,’’ Wadia said during an exclusive telephone interview with Gulf News on Sunday.
Can Punjab, who are in fifth position with 10 points with just a game to go, still make it? First of all, Punjab will have to beat Chennai Super Kings on Thursday to get to 12 points - which looks a tall order on current form.
See, I believe you reap what you sow. Earning the Orange Cap is important we know but eventually, individual honours don’t make a difference. There should be a self confidence and positivity as well - you need to enjoy the game instead of letting it get you in a situation where you get tensed up.
If they manage to reach 12 points in the first place, Punjab will then have to depend on their NRR (Net Run Rate) - in addition to hoping for more than one results to go their way. However, they will also have to expect that neither of Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians can surpass the 12-point mark. Even with 12 points, those teams’ NRR should be less than Punjab as only one more team can qualify as the fourth side.
While Wadia is not in the UAE at the moment, his team’s inability to close down matches over the years continue to hurt him all the more - the last one being the afternoon game on Sunday when Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore pipped them by six runs.
Without taking names, Wadia came down quite harshly on his players and support staff when he said: ‘‘At the end of the day, IPL is business and like in any business, you have to have the right professional for the right task. If people fail to deliver, get others who can deliver - it’s as simple as that.’’
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The Punjab management had, with an eye towards bringing about a change of luck, rebranded their team from Kings XI Punjab to Punjab Kings last year and introduced a new captain-coach combination of KL Rahul and Anil Kumble since last year. While Rahul had been in prolific form, the Indian star often appeared to have been bogged down with the pressure.
Asked how the captain and coach’s chemistry failed to work, Wadia said: ‘‘See, I believe you reap what you sow. Earning the Orange Cap is important we know but eventually, individual honours don’t make a difference. There should be a self confidence and positivity as well - you need to enjoy the game instead of letting it get you in a situation where you get tensed up.
‘‘In IPL, there are often players who don’t even look at the scoreboard but have been major achievers. You have to be happy and in a relaxed frame of mind. It was rather disappointing at the way we lost the momentum against RCB,’’ he said.
The incident of ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle walking out of the IPL bubble with still three matches to go had raised questions at certain quarters if the giant West Indian had felt under-utilised during the season. Wadia, on his part, said: ‘‘Chris Gayle has been more of a friend, he is the Universe Boss. We respect his thoughts. Living in the bubble, believe me, is not easy. I have all the empathy for those players who said they can’t live in the bubble and have left it. I also believe we can continue to maintain our relationship with him in future.’’
Moving on, the 2022 IPL season promises to be a bigger one with 10 teams - and the mega auction is going to see a complete overhaul in the look and feel of the teams. Asked if the team management has any particular marquee player or more in mind, Wadia said: ‘‘There is no point in talking about it now. Let this season get over and we will review our plans. There are, of course, several thoughts but once can cement them when we know about the retention, RTM (Right to Match etc) policies. Then two new stakeholders will come and they also will want to be an equitable partner of the plans.’’
Finally, his reaction on having the crowds back in the stadium in the UAE? ‘‘It’s wonderful to have them back. While we are grateful to the UAE to have hosted the IPL, we would like to have the IPL in India next year,’’ he signed off.