By Lokendra Pratap Sahi
Calcutta (The Telegraph): Adam Gilchrist, a game-changer in limited-overs cricket, who helped make Australia into one of the greatest teams of all time (in the two principal formats), is in the city as captain of the Kings XI Punjab.
On Saturday, Gilchrist spoke to The Telegraph twice, before and after his team’s practice session.
The following are excerpts:
Q The one difference between the last edition of the IPL and this one is that you’re now 40. Have you taken a fresh guard?
A Very fortunately, I’ve had a good life and, to be honest, life is no different today than when I wasn’t 40.
Is it a mighty challenge gearing up for the IPL which, perhaps, is more suited to the younger players?
The reason why I keep coming back is that I continue to enjoy playing in the IPL… Obviously, the pace keeps getting quicker, but there’s definitely a place for experience and knowledge… I wouldn’t be here if I felt I wasn’t deserving of a place (in the XI).
You’ve already played against teams led by 39-year-olds — Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Has the element of age ever come up in your conversations?
(Laughs) Well, if they’re on the wrong side of 30, I’m on the right side of 40! No, we haven’t talked about age… Whenever the opportunity has come up, we’ve spoken about the old-times and the tussles we used to have while playing for Australia/India… Of course, we’ve been amazed at some of the younger players and what they bring to the table.
Isn’t this edition of the IPL also showcasing some of the finest captains? There’s Sourav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Daniel Vettori, Kumar Sangakkara to name a few…
I agree with you. A feature of the IPL right from the beginning, in 2008, has been the ability of leaders and teams to adapt … The experienced heads help in clear thinking which is required under pressure and, believe me, the intensity is always high in the IPL. Eventually, it boils down to how the captains use the troops at their disposal.
Just how different is it captaining a T20 team compared to leading in the other formats?
There’s more riding on every decision made in this format. This concerns both the captains and the players … The decision-making has to be spot on as there’s no time in a T20 game to recover from a mistake. Having said that, it’s not always possible to get it right.
You’re playing a much bigger role in the Kings XI. What is this experience like?
I wouldn’t say there’s a huge difference and we do have a very competent coaching staff… There’s Mike Young, who isn’t just a fielding coach… Then, there’s John Dawes, who is now India’s bowling coach… So, there’s a quality group to look after the coaching needs.
Being one of the three captains to have won the IPL, you’re well qualified to answer this…. Is there a formula for being successful in such a long-drawn-out tournament with players of different nationalities in every franchise?
I don’t think there’s a formula or a blueprint for success. As I’ve said, much depends on how a captain uses the troops at his disposal … Uses the artillery which is available to him.
Deccan Chargers, your first franchise, had a very different set-up. But, have you ever reflected or drawn inspiration from the Chargers’ 2009 success, in South Africa?
You do look at a lot of things, what worked and what didn’t… You try and incorporate… The thought process changes when one moves to a new franchise and, invariably, there’s a change in staff as well. I’m happy that Young, who was with the Chargers, is with the Kings XI.
What, for you, has been the biggest challenge captaining in the IPL?
The challenge is to understand the players who come from diverse backgrounds. Even if some come from one country, their backgrounds need not be the same, as the country in question could itself be so diverse. Cricketing results will see ups and downs, for that’s the nature of sport, and one accepts it as a given. It’s understanding the players which is far more challenging.
If you were asked to speak to young captains, what would you tell them?
That understanding the players has to be the priority. Equally, there must be good lines of communication…A captain shouldn’t search for respect, but earn it.
Have you looked up to a captain?
The captains that I played under for a length of time were all terrific. Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting… Because of the age difference (six years), Steve was more of a mentor… Ricky was a mate.
What about Mark Taylor?
I didn’t play much under him. But the little that I did, I saw great leadership.
For quite a few, Dhoni is a very good captain in the shorter format, but not that smart in Test cricket. Do you agree?
I haven’t watched too much of Dhoni in Test cricket, so it’s difficult for me to pass a comment … After all, a lot of factors come into play… The conditions, the availability of players, the form of batters and bowlers. However, I’m aware that India’s results haven’t been good in Test cricket over the past 9-10 months.
Michael Clarke captains Australia in Tests and ODIs, while George Bailey is the T20 captain. Is there a case for a different captain in every format?
We have two captains because Michael has retired from T20 cricket at the international level… The arrangement is working well, but I’d favour one captain in all formats, provided he’s deserving of a place in all three XIs.
Is it an advantage being a ’keeper-captain or does it make it more tough for someone like you?
(Laughs) I couldn’t imagine captaining from anywhere else in the field! Doing so from behind the stumps is like second nature to me… It can get very demanding, though, in Test cricket.
Preity Zinta, co-owner of the Kings XI, is known to give motivational speeches. What are they like?
Oh, she’s an extremely positive person and whatever she says has that positive vibrancy about it… I’ve always found her and the other co-owners to be hugely supportive… She has never tried to enforce an opinion on the cricketing side. It’s a pleasure working with her.
The last one… Your family (wife Mel and children Harry, Annie, Archie and Ted) is with you this time. With the schedule so tight have you all managed to see a bit of Calcutta?
This (Saturday) morning, we went to St Peter’s High School, which is run by Mother Teresa’s organisation… It was a holiday, but around 250 kids turned up… It was quite amazing.
My local parish (in Perth) supports a food programme in this school and, so, I’m glad that we could make a trip there.