There are some who believe that playing cricket and coaching simultaneously at the same time, is virtually impossible. But they were proven wrong the moment the inaugural season of the IPL in 2008 came to a stunning end. Rajasthan Royals, the perceived underdogs at the beginning of the competition, became the champions by defeating a much stronger Chennai Super Kings. Throughout the tournament, their intensity levels never dropped and that was primarily because of Shane Warne who courageously took up the then daunting task of leading and coaching the Royals as well. The legendary Australian leg spinner worked hard to make Rajasthan an outfit which was united in their cause of winning and nothing else. He trained the players and motivated them to live life to the fullest, on the field and off the field and this was appreciated by even opposition captains.
If Warne can do it, so can others. Here are three of those players who actually did, irrespective of the final outcomes of their teams in the IPL 2012 –
1) Adam Gilchrist (Kings XI Punjab)
Gilchrist was appointed as captain of the Kings XI Punjab for the second consecutive season in the IPL 2012; since the team finished a decent 5th last season. But Michael Bevan quit as coach prior to the campaign and that hit Punjab badly. Perhaps not finding a good coach and the fact that Gilly had created a fine rapport with the owners and the players in one year might have contributed in him taking up the role of a coach as well for an underrated Punjab team.
The Australian legendary wicketkeeper batsman always exudes some aura, which inspires the team to give its best irrespective of the odds being against them. This makes him similar to Warne and thus it is no surprise that he alongside Warne have been the only two foreign captains to have won the IPL. Gilchrist carried on the same style of captaincy from Deccan Chargers to Kings XI Punjab.
This year though, was not his. For the first time in 16 years, he missed out on a competitive match of cricket due to a freak injury. The injury was so serious that he had to sit out for almost half of the tournament while David Hussey replaced him as leader. Yet, Gilly’s role as mentor was critical in keeping Kings XI Punjab alive in the tournament until they played their 16th match. They unfortunately missed out a place in the last four as Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore had a better net run rate than them. Punjab finished 6th this year, but that does not go to show the fight that they gave to heavyweight teams and defeating them in their own backyard.
Gilly was responsible for the surge of the likes of Pragyan Ojha, RP Singh and Rohit Sharma when he was the leader of Deccan Chargers. Now he also has been the key in making Harmeet Singh, Parwinder Awana and above all, Mandeep Singh recognizable faces in Indian cricket. A great player, captain, wicketkeeper and opening batsman will definitely be missed since he is unlikely to take part in the IPL 2013.
2) Rahul Dravid (Rajasthan Royals)
History repeats itself for the Rajasthan Royals. Warne had retired from all forms of cricket right after the IPL 2011, which meant that he would not play the IPL 2012. And he did not. So, Rahul Dravid was as good as the automatic choice for the Royals team management when it came to selecting the best player to replace Warney as leader-cum-mentor of the side. Following his retirement from international cricket three months ago, Dravid did not have much pressure to face since he could now solely focus on the IPL and nothing else. This made him think not just about himself, but other talents to be nurtured in the Royals roster. It is not to say, that the Wall is not a team man!
Dravid does not have a street smart cricketing brain as that of Warne or was proactive in leadership like him, but he was able to be the senior statesman that all the players irrespective of their experience could look up to and emulate. That is what captaincy is primarily about. He was given the freedom to make decisions and most of the times, it worked for the team. Rajasthan Royals may have finished 7th out of 9 teams, but they too were always in the hunt for reaching the playoffs stage.
What separated Dravid from the rest was the fact that captaincy and his natural style of batting did not affect his run making in the IPL, as he finished with above 400 runs in 16 matches. Not many captains, barring Sehwag and Gambhir were successful with the bat and also considering Dravid’s age and the fact that he does not like to open the batting, makes this a phenomenal achievement.
Plus, few teams were as dominant at home as the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL 2012. And with the quality of cricket that they played, it was not that big a shock when the team won the Fair Play Award for playing in the spirit of the game better than the other teams. Dravid may exit from the IPL, so this might be the last time he could be seen on the cricket field.
3) Sourav Ganguly (Pune Warriors India)
Ganguly was famously ‘dumped’ by his home franchise, Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2011 IPL auction. The team owner and the heartthrob of millions around the world, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was subject to immense criticism by passionate Kolkata and Ganguly fans since he was the darling of the team. SRK had to pacify the people by performing extreme PR exercises and one of them involved asking Ganguly to just be a mentor for the Knight Riders with Gambhir replacing him as captain. Dada flatly refused the offer because he wanted to play for the team and not just mentor them.
But he found solace in the arms of the nascent Pune Warriors India franchise, who bought him initially as a replacement player for Ashish Nehra in 2011. And with Yuvraj Singh being unavailable for the 2012 season, Ganguly was a unanimous choice for being the captain of the team and its chief mentor, following the resignation of Geoff Marsh. He took up the offer without any hesitancy because he strongly believes that in the IPL, the role of a head coach is hardly valued and the players cannot be taught much in a tournament which has matches after matches to be played for each team without much rest.
Pune did have Allan Donald and Praveen Amre as bowling and batting coaches respectively, but Dada always was an important link to the success of the team. Unluckily, age has definitely reduced his reflexes and it reflected in his poor batting form. Sometimes his decisions on the field were baffling, although he had a few moments to celebrate such as when he picked the wicket of Kevin Pietersen in Delhi off the first ball he bowled in an IPL game after two seasons.
The team deserved to finish last in the IPL 2012 and it is difficult to fathom Ganguly coming back for the IPL 2013, when he would have easily turned 40 and Yuvraj would finally make a comeback into the team after being treated of cancer.