Cynicism, it is often believed, has set in like cement in Delhi cricket.
Though the Ranji team is billed as ‘potential title contenders’ before every season, for some reason or the other, they just aren’t able to translate that billing into a performance of note — the last time they made it to the final was 11 seasons ago. But that is history.
It’s time for a fresh start and like every year, another new beginning. And the man who is most likely to be handed this responsibility this year is former captain Vijay Dahiya.
Dahiya, who retired last season, is the odds-on choice for the post of Delhi coach, and though he is yet to be told anything either way officially by the DDCA, it is widely believed that he will get the job this week.
“I haven’t heard from the DDCA yet, but I am sure they will inform the person — whoever it is — once they’ve taken the decision,” said Dahiya, who, if he does get the post, would have a none too easy job of gelling a disparate bunch, many of who have played with him as contemporaries, into a disciplined unit that will fulfil its potential.
Excerpts from an interview
When and where do you think it all went wrong for Delhi cricket?
There is no dearth of talent. Delhi has consistently produced India internationals. Where I think we went wrong is that we didn’t blood enough youngsters during the eighties-nineties when the likes of Manoj Prabhakar, Raman Lamba, Ajay Sharma and Maninder Singh formed the core. Once they retired, Delhi was left with a massive gap to fill, too soon.
Do you believe that gap has been filled now? Recent Delhi teams have seemed to have the right blend of youth and experience…
The team we had last season was one of the best in many years. Youngsters such as Ishant Sharma, Virat Kohli and Puneet Bisht and experienced players like Virender Sehwag, Aakash Chopra and Gautam Gambhir make it a well-balanced team. This is a fantastic unit and I see no reason why we can’t vie for the title.
What would you, if you were to be named coach, prefer? A team of talented youngsters, or one with experienced professionals?
I firmly believe a state side should not just have youngsters who are knocking on the doors of the national side. You cannot just discard a player because he is no longer in national reckoning. Every team should have experienced players who will groom the juniors. But if somebody is good, he will be picked, irrespective of his age.
Do you think that being part of a dressing room as a player makes a coach’s task easier?
Of course it would help. For instance, if I were to be coach, I know the players and have spent time with them. But, more than that, I think what’ll work to my advantage is the relatively smaller age-gap between the players and me. If youngsters can come up to the coach and talk about their problems, a team is moving in the right direction.
If things work out, what would your plan of action be?
The job of a coach has expanded well beyond traditional boundaries. A coach’s job is no longer restricted to practice and ironing out chinks. A coach has to tend to every aspect of a player’s life — he needs to talk to his players off the field, understand them and help them relate to him. If I were coach, my motto would be ‘Playing together, playing as a team’. I would set a goal for the day and hope my team can achieve it.
You’re not known to be too big an admirer of the senior-junior hierarchy. What would you do to get around this?
Look, there has to be mutual respect between the two sets of players. The younger players have a lot to learn from more experienced members. But that doesn’t mean you’ll send a youngster to silly point because he is the youngest. At the end of the day, it’s all about teamwork.
Did the Delhi team face such problems last season?
No. Not at least when I was there. There weren’t any groups and nor were the youngsters inhibited while talking to seniors.
Finally, where do you see the Delhi team at the end of the season?
I don’t like to portend. But, if I was coach, I would be satisfied if I knew my players had given their 100 per cent. I would want to create a congenial atmosphere within the team. The rest is up to the players and luck.