Ricky Ponting, the Australian legend simply loves his role as the head coach of the Mumbai Indians. Ponting has been at the helm of the affairs as the head coach of Mumbai since this IPL. Fair to say, the side under his guidance has excelled tremendously. He has nurtured young talent well and is making the best use of available resources.
Ricky Ponting spoke with the Times of India in an interview. Below are the excerpts.
Did you think that there was a realistic chance of MI making it to the final after four straight losses?
Yes, we did. I kept great faith in the group. A few injuries, if, anything, probably helped us almost come across this current combination. Corey Anderson going out and Aaron Finch being injured meant that Lendl Simmons came up at the top of the order. Then Mitchell McClenaghan joined the bowling attack. Also if you look at some of our matches, we won some really close ones, so that boosted our morale.
Where did things go wrong initially, and how were they rectified?
We just tightened up all areas after the string of losses. Simmons and Parthiv Patel began doing well and so did Lasith Malinga and McClenaghan. When you have a good opening bowling and batting combination, there’s little that can go wrong.
Youngsters like Hardik Pandya and J Suchith have justified their place in the side after consistent performances. But how exactly did you keep up the morale of someone like Suchith after he was hammered by McCullum and Smith at the Wankhede?
That day, we took bit of a gamble by bowling him in the powerplay. And for a young guy, he wasn’t able to handle the situation as well as he would have liked. But, it was very important for the captain and coach to handle the situation properly. We spoke to him about how important he was to the team and how much he was contributing to the side. Hardik is very good and loves competing. Every game he plays, it seems he’s been playing top class cricket for 10 years. He has played exactly the way the team has wanted him to play. We have taken great care with all our young guys.
What was the strategy behind picking these young boys?
When we went to the auctions earlier this year, our motive was to regenerate the side with a few young Indian players. I am happy we have been able to do that. I remember in 2013, we had a lot of good Indian players and when I returned last year, a lot of those year, a lot of those players had gone. We had to take a bit of a gamble and that’s paid off.
Are you impressed by the captaincy of Rohit Sharma? What are the qualities that set him apart?
Rohit has done a terrific job this year. He’s been under more pressure than anyone else. Being the captain results not going his way earlier and batting at different positions, he has handled this really well. We have had a lot of discussions this season a lot of tactical things and how to handle certain guys and how to handle certain bowlers. He has accepted all this stuff really well. His and my relationship is really strong. We are really honest with each other and we appreciate each other’s feedback and not only during the course of a game, but throughout the season. Touchwood (bangs the table) he has done a great job so far and hopefully he will be able to do that in the final as well.
This was your maiden season as full-time coach. Were you ever daunted by the scale of the task that lay ahead?
Taking over Mumbai Indians was a big job. It’s a huge franchise. I was delighted to come and take over as head coach. I have never been in any coaching role before. In the second half of the 2013 season, I did a bit of a mentoring, but was not the coach. So, I wanted the guys to understand what I am like. I let them know straight away what my expectations are and how I expect them to play. I just told them that I would be very honest with every single word I spoke and there would be complete honesty. I have also ensured that I treat everyone the same: be it the youngest player in the team or the captain.
How challenging has it been to handle an IPL team, since you are dealing with a wide array of players: some with huge experience and others who have not even played First Class cricket?
Bringing a team together has never been difficult for me. I think you just need to spend time with each individual and understand them and what makes them tick. I think if you spend time with people, they start responding to your suggestions. The hardest part about managing 25-26 players is handling the training sessions and how are you going to accommodate them during the time that you have at the nets.
You generally leave the field after the last player has left the nets. Does that come naturally, or are you putting in extra effort to understand things as coach?
As a coach it’s my job to be standing around and helping every batsman and bowler who has been coming for training. So that’s my job and I am enjoying it. A lot of our sessions have been long. Having been part of a lot of successful Australian teams, I think I have been in a position to offer a lot of my experience.
Harbhajan Singh has been recalled to the Indian side for the Bangladesh Test. Do you think his performance in IPL 8 made the difference?
Harbhajan has been outstanding for us again and I think this played a role in his come back. Over the past 3-4 seasons, he probably has been the best spinner in IPL. With the time I have spent with Harbhajan, I have realized that he wanted to be part of the Indian team all along and was willing to give everything.
How are you approaching the final? Any specific areas you’d still like to iron out?
Honestly, it doesn’t matter now. The way the IPL works, we beat everyone once and they beat us once except Sunrisers whom we beat twice. So we will wait and see whom we play. We will make sure we are well prepared for the game and hopefully we will triumph.