The decision of Kings XI Punjab to replace Yuvraj Singh with Kumar Sangakkara as skipper for IPL Season III might be termed by some as a wise one.
Others (the right wing) might take it otherwise. “Yet another IPL team is to be led by a non-Indian,” they might say.
For once, the right wing may have a point here. My endorsement of it though is based purely on cricketing reasons.
Let’s face it: Seven of the 11 playing members in a team are Indians; the set-up, right from the board, management and the owner(s) are Indians and the viewers are mostly Indians.
One needs to understand the dynamics. While the IPL boasts of a line-up of reputed players, it is also a Mecca for domestic players waiting to make their international debut of sorts.
Playing alongside their Indian idols means a world to them and they would certainly not appreciate their heroes getting marginalised.
Most teams hire foreign coaches and if the captain too happens to be a non-Indian, a majority of the players feel they don’t have a representative in the decision-making process.
Kevin Pietersen, captain of Royal Challengers, had a tough time remembering the names of his seven Indian teammates. Could you then expect him to understand their individual strengths and weaknesses? Perhaps not, which is why, Anil Kumble was called in to relieve Pietersen. And the move worked wonders.
The question of how well informed a non-Indian captain is of the playing conditions also pops up, especially now that the IPL is set to cover uncharted territories like Visakhapatnam and Dharamsala.
So, what was the Kings XI management thinking when it decided to replace Yuvraj with Sangakkara? Yuvraj’s team, in the last two seasons, hasn’t managed to win the trophy and one failure is enough to make heads to roll in the corporate world.
Yuvraj’s animated and overtly aggressive behaviour on and off field hasn’t found too many admirers either. I wonder if all this makes for a strong case against him. In fact, a closer look at the team’s performance might tell a different story. Kings XI haven’t done too badly. They reached the last four in the first season and weren’t among the bottom two in Season II either.
I’m neither a fan of Yuvraj’s leadership skills nor a critic of Sangakkara. In fact, the Lankan is a levelheaded man with great knowledge of the game. Yet, I may, in the same breath, also voice my disappointment over the way he led Sri Lanka in the last couple of months.
Owners/coach should strongly consider the option of an Indian leading an IPL team, barring the odd exception of Rajasthan Royals who couldn’t boast of a single big Indian player. Shane Warne was perhaps their biggest catch and hence became captain by default.
The Indian/non-Indian issue may become null and void if the captain happens to be a really good one, someone who’d cross the language/nationality barrier and gain everyone’s confidence.