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'Tendulkar wanted match-winners in IPL'

The Mumbai franchisee had gone to IPL auction armed with a strategy and wish-list outlined by the master batsman.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2008 01:41 AM IST

The Reliance Industries-owned Mumbai franchisee had gone to last month's IPL players' auction armed with a strategy and wish-list outlined by master batsman Sachin Tendulkar and executed them to a large extent, according to the chief representative of the franchisee.

In an exclusive interview to PTI, the President and Chief Marketing Officer of Reliance Retail Limited, R Balachandran said he would give a figure of 8 on a 1-10 scale about the outcome of the February 20 auction in which they trained their focus on roping in match-winning players.

"We went into the auction with a fairly clear idea of what we wanted. He (Tendulkar) thinks cricket from many angles and thinks continuously. We had a lot of dialogue. He had a wish-list and there was a strategy behind the players that we went out to pick and the players we got. We executed that strategy.

"He sought specific players. If you look at the players you will see we have selected people who by themselves are match-winners. That's a very important aspect.

"Yes, we came out a happy lot. If you put it in a scale of 1-10, I would say it probably would be around 8," said Balachandran, who headed the Mumbai franchisee team at the auction.

"I believe it's not just possession but a question of choosing match winners. This is what is behind a good amount of our strategy. I know Sachin's mind has worked on all this a lot," he elaborated.

Another major factor influencing their choice of players was their availability in the first year of the April 18-June 1 League, Balachandran said.

"All the players we have picked up at the auction are 100 per cent available this year. That's very important. We did not necessarily go into the auction to choose the entire team which could not have been done as per the rules of the auction.
"What we did was to pick the core of the team in which Sachin is the nucleus, as the icon player not only as a batsman and a vastly experienced captain but also as a thinking cricketer," he said.

The Reliance official also said that the three Ss in the squad - Sachin, Sanath (Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka) and Shaun (Pollock of South Africa) - would play key roles in the moulding of the team with their vast experience as players and captains in the international arena.

"If you take Sanath, Sachin of course or Shaun Pollock, quite apart from anything else they are cricketers with so much experience. Experience finally makes a difference in that split second of a decision and a split second often comes when you have got the compressed format of play.

"All three of them have been captains of their countries as well as among the most respected cricketers in the world," he pointed out.

"I think it's fantastic to have the combination of so much of skill and talent, not just in bowling and batting, but also in thinking ability, the ability to take a decision in a split second and the ability to fall back on the experience of having faced similar situations in hundreds of matches," he said.

"That's a huge resource we have, whether its Sanath, Shaun or Sachin - the three Ss in our team - with the fourth S being strategy," the Mumbai franchise representative said.

Balachandran, however, effectively ruled out any chance of Tendulkar emulating Australian leg spin legend Shane Warne who has become the captain-cum-coach of the Jaipur franchise owned by Emerging Media.

"We will have a separate coach. We are not yet ready to make an announcement yet about him and support staff, but are not looking at a combination (coach cum captain)," he said.

"We will clearly have designated support staff. We all recognise the role and the importance of Sachin in the team," he said.

Balachandran pointed out that the opening combination of Tendulkar and Jayasuriya was one of the most explosive that can be found in the history of the game and would regale the crowds.

"It will be absolutely fantastic to watch potentially the most explosive opening pair in the history. We have Shaun Pollock who's known as a thinking cricketer, whether with the ball or bat or the mind.

"We have a couple of other fast bowlers in Lasith Malinga and Dilhara (Fernando). We also have Loots Bosman with a good track record.

"All these men can change the course of the game. I don't have to say much about Robin Uthappa and Harbhajan," he added. The focus now was in completing the team and as a first step the team has chosen Mumbai Ranji Trophy players, all rounder Abhishek Nair and talented youngster Ajinkya Rahane, along with hard-hitting wicket keeper batsmen Yogesh Takawale of Maharashtra and Pinal Shah of Baroda.

"Having built the core with Sachin as the nucleus we have started to look outwards after the auction and picked Abshishek Nair, an explosive batsman, Ajinkya Rahane, Yogesh Takawale and Pinal Shah, the latter two being hard-hitting wicket keeper batsmen. Over the course of the next week we will announce a few more names," he said.

The franchise representative did not worry too much about the absence of many Mumbaikars in the team, saying that the team was not yet complete and that they possessed the biggest of them all -- Tendulkar.

"Here's a man (Tendulkar) who has embodied the spirit of cricket in Mumbai. He's the essence of cricket of this generation. Mumbai has watched him grow and set records which people are still proud of breaking if they are broken.

"Normally cricketers get respected, admired and even envied. I think Sachin is beyond that. Having said that the team is
still like a work in progress, not completed yet.

"But look at the starting point. The starting point itself has fetched us the best loved Mumbai cricketer of this generation. It's a great starting point," he emphasised.

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