A day after the Bangalore team owner Vijay Mallya publicly expressed his displeasure over his team's showing, also saying he was discouraged from selecting players of his choice by captain Rahul Dravid and the axed CEO, Charu Sharma, the Bangalore camp was trying to maintain a semblance of normality, at least on the surface.
Players said they were trying to concentrate on the game ahead, most went about their usual routine; some even going shopping in and around Chandigarh. But the one question that many were asking was "Why now? — why did Mallya have to publicly condemn his captain mere hours before he led his beleaguered team into another weary battle?
Meanwhile, Chief Cricket Officer Martin Crowe was thinking hard about what more needed to be done to get the team back on track. And perhaps, he even picked the brains of Australian Tom Moody, coach of the Mohali team, over lunch on how to get five wins in a row. Interestingly, new CEO Brijesh Patel has already begun analysing each player, his contract details and how to go about matters in the IPL's second year, also identifying players, national and foreign, who would be ideal for T20.
One thing is certain, the team has resigned itself to the fact that it cannot progress beyond the league stage simply because it does not have the players to do it. And definitely not when five other teams — Jaipur, Chennai, Mohali, Kolkata and Delhi — are already fighting it out for the top four slots and putting in a far superior effort on the field. Dravid woke up on Monday morning to news channels flashing Mallya's outburst. Crowe had read Mallya's angry quotes on a website. And Patel, well aware of what's going on, quietly carried on with his task, keeping in mind the franchise's long-term interests.
What happened to us?
In a long team meeting on Sunday night, each player was asked to reflect on his performance and where he went wrong. There were doubts in the franchise management apparently, over whether Crowe, a soft-spoken man who leads from the front, was the kind of CCO the team wanted. He has a three-year contract.
Crowe has also asked himself if he should have been a tougher taskmaster to have gotten better results. It was all reportedly an eye-opener for the former Kiwi skipper, who has been out of competitive cricket as such for over a decade. Crowe has spent this time more involved in the corporate business part of things back home in New Zealand. Sources say he has also accepted responsibility for the team's failure to Mallya.
Bird’s eye view
Crowe, meanwhile, did have a chat with the think-tank before the first player auction was to begin. But as his knowledge base related only to the internationals and not local players, that part he left to Venkatesh Prasad and Dravid.
He had taken leave without pay from Sky TV, for which he is a regular commentator, for the T20 assignment. He's not sure he'll get this kind of leave next year. The question of whether he wants to come back, with the kind of results Bangalore is producing, is open to speculation.
One of the reasons attributed to Bangalore’s poor showing was bad practice facilities. A KSCA official told HT that efforts were on to make it better. But there are only two matches left to be played in Bangalore. A top source said that even Prasad himself was unplayable in the nets in Bangalore. “If any player is unsure at the nets, how can he gain confidence in a match?” he asked.
There is definitely no problem with team bonding, said the source, contradicting Mallya's view. He said many of the players were just naturally more reserved and that was reflected in team meetings. “But there is no clash of interests, no conflict. This I can assure you,” he said.