Player development over stars for Bangar's Kings XI

Sanjay Bangar: ‘Players have played here as unknown quantities and have gone on to play the next level. That has been the vision of our franchise’ © BCCI

Kings XI Punjab went into the auction ahead of IPL 2016 with a purse of Rs 23 crore. On their priority list were fast bowlers and a legspinner. By the time they had finished shopping, they had added eight players to their roster – two fast bowlers, three spinners, two batting allrounders and an uncapped Indian batsman – and they still had Rs 12 crore left in the purse. With only 22 players, Kings XI have the joint-smallest squad in the IPL.

Much like Rajasthan Royals, King XI have always been known to run a tight ship and are loath to splurge on big stars. That they have only seven overseas players in their squad tells the story. “I am guided by the same principles that you use in selecting a national squad – pick only about 15 or 16 players,” one of the franchise’s officials told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the auction. “In an ideal world – and I understand it’s a long tournament – I want the starting XI to play all the 14 matches. It makes sense to have four [foreign] players and have back-ups if anybody is injured.”

Ahead of IPL 2014, Kings XI similarly preferred functionality to reputation while appointing their coaching staff, opting for the then recently-retired Sanjay Bangar, known only for his mentoring skills with the India A and Railways sides, over accomplished names. Under Bangar, the first Indian coach in the IPL, Kings XI made the final. The captain, George Bailey, was thoroughly impressed with Bangar and said, “Everything you see and like about Kings XI starts with Sanjay Bangar. His knowledge of the game is wonderful.”

Two seasons on, Bangar has strived to ensure that the team doesn’t deviate from its primary ethos. “Our strategy has always been based around getting good domestic players, catching them young and providing them the platform. You have seen our platform has helped players like Axar Patel, Sandeep Shama, Gurkeerat Singh, Anureet Singh and Rishi Dhawan,” Bangar said. “Players have played here as unknown quantities, and have progressed and gone on to play the next level. That has been the vision of our franchise as well. In that parlance, if you see, we always went for Marcus Stoinis who is one of the emerging allrounders from the Australian cricket circuit.”

Bangar admitted that their player-acquisition strategy was dictated by small budgets, and said he didn’t see the need to dismantle the unit despite having won only three games and finished last on the points table last year. “All our strategy is based around a particular budget that the directors give us. From that perspective we have to optimise the selection strategies taking into account the budgetary constraints,” he said.

“The players have been included with an eye on the future. We believe in giving continuity. We believe in their strengths, we believe in their ability to bounce back and turn the corner for the team. That is why we opted for continuity in the core group of players that we have in our team.”

Bangar also suggested that the team was built bottom up, with the captain, David Miller, being chosen from among the players rather than the other way around. This, however, was not entirely by design, but dictated more by the constraints Kings XI faced. “Number one, there were very few options outside which were available. Most of the captaincy candidates who we were looking for who were coming out from the two teams [Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings] – Ajinkya Rahane or Suresh Raina or Steven Smith – were absorbed by the two new teams.

“Taking that into account we wanted to have a captain who has played for the team quite a bit. The association with Kings XI was quite important among the available players, and we needed somebody who is young and who is dynamic, and we chose David.”

Bangar was pleased with newly appointed mentor Virender Sehwag’s “hands-on” role in devising strategy and sharing pointers with the team’s youngsters. “He interacts with the boys a lot and the boys are going to benefit immensely from his inputs,” Bangar said. “As far as Sehwag goes, it is a continuation of our association we had with him as opening batsmen. We have opened together for India, in the last two-three years we have been player-coach, now we are coach and mentor on the same side of the management.

“He is making some good contributions to the team in relation to the strategy, also most of the things we did at the auction were in consultation with him. He is quite hands-on and is involved in a lot of activities.”

The Kings XI experience, Bangar said, had helped immensely in his evolution as coach. He also served as India’s batting coach for a while until his contract came to an end after the World T20. “It has been an enormous experience for me, in terms of running or managing the team in a set up like the IPL, wherein players from various age-groups and various levels of achievement are playing together. How do we integrate them, how do we handle them, how do we create a conducive atmosphere, and then again work with them to ensure that the team achieves the goal it wants. It has been quite a learning experience and I have benefited immensely from it.”

Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.


Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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