Delhi Capitals team mentor Sourav Ganguly
Delhi Capitals team mentor Sourav Ganguly (left) picks up Rishabh Pant (right) as they celebrate after winning the IPL match against Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on April 22, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: For all the legendary status ‘dada’ enjoys in Indian cricket, Sourav Ganguly’s track record in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been a chequered one. All that may change in IPL 2019 where a young, new-look Delhi Capitals have been one of the main talking points under the surveillance of two of the most shrewd cricketing brains in the business — coach Ricky Ponting and adviser Ganguly.

As Delhi Capitals (erstwhile Delhi Daredevils) qualified for the play-offs as table-toppers earlier this week after an agonising wait for seven years — the players grew increasingly effusive in their praise for the duo. “The coaches play an important role and in Ponting and dada (Ganguly), we have two former skippers who have led their teams successfully and know about the job of planning and strategising. They know how to prepare players and give them confidence,” remarked Shikhar Dhawan, the senior pro in the team who has used the ongoing IPL brilliantly to tune up for the ICC World Cup in less than a month’s time.

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And only a week back, the IPL watchers were in for an even bigger surprise. In a spontaneous gesture that must have seemed like a throwback to his playing days for the Capitals’ batting coach Mohammad Kaif, Ganguly gave the young Risabh Pant a bear hug and lifted him soon after the dasher took them home with a match-winning innings of 78 against Rajasthan Royals. Kaif, one of the heroes of India’s historic triumph in the NatWest Trophy in England in 2002, had a jubilant Ganguly leaping at him soon after his famous shirt waving at the Lord’s balcony.

It’s certainly the Ganguly 3.0, who had slipped into the role of a successful official for the last four years as the President of Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) after his playing days — and someone in the pole position for the hot seat at the Indian cricket board in due time. When the Delhi franchise announced the appointment on the eve of the league, it was seen as a casting coup of sorts, even though many questioned the wisdom of the decision.

“The fact remains that even after plunging into cricket administration, he (Ganguly) had often expressed the desire to be associated with a team in an advisory capacity to work with the players. Deep down, that’s where he belongs as he has been always a players’ man,” revealed one of the insiders of Ganguly’s charmed circle.

For Ganguly, it was a return to an environment where his discomfiture with the previous experience is all too well known — not to forget an interview in 2012 when he famously said that he found it “much easier” to captain India than his IPL franchise because of interference from the management.

However, as Ganguly took his place in the dugout beside Ponting — an old foe but with a mutual respect for each other — one couldn’t help but notice the change in his approach. The ‘Prince of Kolkata,’ one learns, consciously played a second fiddle to Ponting to ensure there were no clash of egos as it could be detrimental to the team’s campaign. His work revolved mostly around the Indian players — with them Ganguly worked more as a high performance coach who tried to make minor adjustments to their game and also looked at the mental aspect.

“For example, Ganguly believes that Pant is an exceptional talent but has to be nurtured well. Ganguly’s constant advice for him was not to go for it from the first ball and insisted that he needed to finish matches if he wanted to consolidate his place in the Indian team.

While he worked mostly with the batsmen, Ganguly even had time for someone like Axar Patel on adjusting his bowling according to the wickets,” the insider added.