Australian legend Ricky Ponting had a brilliant start to his coaching career as he orchestrated a second IPL title win for his side Mumbai Indians.
One of the best captains ever, Ricky Ponting is now busy defending the title. After a shaky start to this season, his side is finally looking good.
In a recent interview with the TOI, Ponting talked about his coaching, his team and much more.
Unlike the previous seasons, MI got off to a better start this time.
Yes, but still we didn’t really get off to the start that we were hoping for. In a tournament like this, you don’t want to leave yourself with too much of work to do in the back-half of the tournament. With Malinga ruled out, and then Lendl Simmons, we were looking for combinations that would work for us and it took us three or four games to figure that out. We’ve played pretty consistently as well in the recent matches.
Barring these last five days, it’s been non-stop one. So physically it’s been quite tough on the group.I was really proud of how we got through those last five or six games. Actually, the tighter the situation has got, the more consistent and better we’ve played. I’ve got great confidence in this team and I really believe we can finish well.
You are not someone who chops and changes the side a lot.
I believe in backing players and showing faith in a group that I could believe in. At the start of the tournament, what you try and do is try and pick your best eleven. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but the fact is that the most consistent cricket we’ve played in the tournament so far is with a tightly-knit group of eleven players and – in the last four or five games – it’s given us results.
You’re still a very young coach. How’s it been for you?
As far as the coaching experience goes, I guess I am a very young coach. Until last year, I had no experience of being a head coach of any team. I’m absolutely loving it.
As a player, you could go out there and get things done for yourself. As a coach, you’ve got to stay out of the boundary and hope for the best …
That’s the hardest part as coach.You can’t go on the field and get things done. You have to stay outside the boundary and hope for the best. I’ve said that a few times in this tournament already. When I was a player or captain, I always knew there was something I could do to change the course of the game – whether it was taking a catch or effecting a run-out or playing an innings as a batsman. But now, sitting outside the boundary line, all you can do is hope that whatever planning or strategising has gone into the game while preparing for it, the guys on the field execute it and pull off a victory.
Is coaching a thankless job?
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t work, that’s when it becomes quite frustrating. That’s part and parcel of the game. And therefore, the reason we work as hard as we do is to give ourselves the best chance to go out there and execute those things under pressure.
How many times do you have to tell yourself that a costly cricketer is not necessarily your best cricketer?
I’ve made it very clear to the entire team that to me all of them are exactly the same. I don’t care if they’ve played a 100 IPL games or haven’t played a game yet. I don’t care if they earn $10m a season or Rs10 lakh. It doesn’t matter. I’m looking for the best skill sets that can add value to the team.
This IPL has witnessed a trend of teams chasing successfully.
You can attribute it to better pitches. If you look through the course of this IPL, there haven’t been any big turning pitches that have made it really hard to chase runs. I think it’s a trend that has been seen in 50-over cricket as well. If you go back five or six years ago, in 50-over cricket, teams wanted to bat first all the time and post healthy totals, but as skills got better, teams wanted to chase totals on good wickets and that seemed easier. It’s that phase in T20 right now, where there’s no fear in chasing any totals. In fact, if you see now, teams are picking line-ups with the sole idea of looking to chase.
Cricket aside, what are the other challenges that a player encounters in the dressing room of an IPL franchise?
Look, I came here (at MI) first as captain in 2013 and I said then that one of the great challenges I would face as a captain – and I actually said it to the players – I wanted to break down all the cultural barriers between players from different countries. We had the West Indians, the South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders and there are so many cultural differences among the Indian guys as well. That’s where having open meetings, discussions, exchange of ideas helped. I encourage guys to talk up. If players can learn to open up, talk about themselves, their game, and have fun, it’s easy to break down these barriers.
Are you the kind of coach who refers to manuals?
No, I don’t. It’s all about gut feel. I have a good understanding of the game and what we need at different times. Little things that we’ve done in this tournament, like having Mitchell McClenaghan to bat at No.4 in the second game at Kolkata. That was just to go out and change the momentum against the spinners. Even Krunal Pandya has been moved up the order at times for the same reason. While these things are happening, the coaching staff is always out there, watching from the sidelines on how to improvise constantly. The idea is to keep figuring what is needed and find solutions. For me, there is no coaching manual.
What’s your take on Rohit Sharma’s captaincy?
How many captains have won two titles in the IPL? MS? Gautam … and? So, he must be doing something right. You probably know how he is, a shy, reserved sort of a guy. He’s the sort who likes to soak in information and that’s a great quality. And when he’s on the field, he’s another beast altogether – animated, loud, getting things done.
He’s very direct with his players, he gets his point across and it’s our job in the meetings to give him the right information. To top it, he’s one of the best players in this format and I think we’ve seen that quite often through this tournament once again. I asked him some questions at start of this tournament because I was worried about his form (post the World T20) but he just shook it off and said “No”(I’ll be fine). (In) A format like this, one needs a strong leader because quick, strong decisions have to be taken constantly and Rohit is a great choice for us. Tactically how a captain makes a difference matters a lot and all I could say is that Rohit is very much in tune with that.
Are you ready to coach in the longer format?
That would probably be easier. This is the hardest format to coach. In T20, things are happening by the ball and you have to be so well planned. I doubt if the regular cricket fan who sits and watches every T20 game on television is able to figure the strategy and tactics that go into a game. Test cricket is a tactical game but it’s played over five days where, even if you’re down on day one, you have the space to bounce back. More importantly, in Test cricket, you’re working on one set plan for a longer period of time. Here, it’s every ball. As a coach you can’t afford to have any one thing that could surprise you in the game.
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