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Kings XI Punjab lucky to have Mitchell Johnson: Sanjay Bangar

Mitchell Johnson 1-1
Mitchell Johnson has had a terrific season so far for Australia © Getty Images

Feb 16, 2014

Former India player Sanjay Bangar will now be seen in a new avatar as he readies himself to take up his coaching assignment with Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).

Bangar who also was happy at the big buys of Mitchell Johnson and Glenn Maxwell during the auctions said, “We are delighted to have Johnson, a champion cricketer in the form of his life. We got a bit lucky with him because we were not sure whether we will acquire him with Mumbai keen to hold onto him. In the end it went well for us, considering that the IPL could be played in South Africa. Maxwell is a brilliant package. He is probably the top fielder in the world and also a handy, useful spinner, which adds a lot of value to the team. We also got another bargain buy match-winner in Thisara Perera.”

Bangar who was speaking to the Indian Express opened up about a host of things which range from coaching Punjab to the reason as to why they brought in Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara and also the huge pay cheque being handed out to Rishi Dhawan.

When asked about his role in preparing the Punjab team prior to the auction, Bangar replied, “I did a lot of talent scouting by watching Ranji Trophy matches, specially from the quarter-final stage. What also worked to my advantage was that I was playing till last year. So I knew about the domestic players and how they react under match circumstances. We also were intent on building on the work laid down by former coaches and senior players like Vikram Rathore, Darren Lehmann and Adam Gilchrist. Generally if there’s a change in the coach, he tries to bring in a whole lot many changes. But I was in constant consultation with Rathore, trying to pick his brains about what he thought of certain players. He had selected a whole lot of players who eventually ended up in Kings XI. I also exchanged many mails with Lehmann to get his views.”

On queries of the Punjab team-management spending big money on Dhawan and Gurkeerat Mann, Bangar said, “I think what worked in Rishi and Gurkeerat’s favour is that they had performed well at the IPL level. It’s one thing to be a good talent and then to deliver under all the pressure and hype. Rishi did so consistently for Mumbai Indians. Gurkeerat on the other hand is just flowering for Punjab. At the end of the day, one deserves what he’s destined to get. You can’t control the price on anybody on any commodity so I’m glad that he got rewarded. It’s pleasing to see domestic players who toil so hard under tough conditions being acknowledged in the auction. At the same time, a kid in Himachal sees what’s happened to Rishi Dhawan and takes cricket seriously as a career, then there is a paradigm shift in how people think about sport.”

“In most auctions, on both days, the game gets over within the first half. You have to act really fast. We started off by getting a player of Virender Sehwag’s calibre at a very reasonable price [Rs 3.2 crore] and then a few things also went our way and we got lucky on a few occasions,” added Bangar about the rebuilding process that took place in the Punjab team prior to the IPL.

When asked about whether Sehwag was initially a part of their team plan, Bangar replied, “No, I think you can never go into an auction with a pre-set idea. You have to keep your options open and be flexible. Economically, I think we surely wanted someone like Sehwag. And I’m confident that he’ll come to the party. Playing domestic cricket can at times be demotivating for someone who’s played international cricket for so long. This IPL will motivate him to try and just play the way he wants to.”

On questions of Pujara being bought by the team, Bangar said, “I am of the belief that if somebody can play as well as he does at the international level against world-class bowlers, then he has a high chance of succeeding in any other format too. He is a batsman who’s suited to bat in the top-order or as an opener without a doubt, so that is where we will eventually try him to maximise his potential.”

On queries of Australian George Bailey being named team captain, Bangar replied, “We never really went in with the intention of having him [Bailey] captaining the side. We were more intent on getting the best possible players in the mix and look at our captaincy options from that lot later.”

Bangar also denied that Punjab had copied the Rajasthan Royals’ (RR) team policies during the IPL auction and concluded it by saying, “We obviously learn from each other. It’s not a big field, and no matter how hard you devise your strategy it’s a level playing field. Most teams are well-balanced. With all the indecisiveness about where the IPL will be played—India, UAE or South Africa—I think we have gotten a balanced outfit.”

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