Speaking to CricketNext, KXIP head coach Brad Hodge said that Gayle has shown why he is a true legend and that taking up challenges has been the Jamaican’s forte right through his career. Hodge even accepts that picking the destructive opener was a thought that came to the franchise at the auction table.
“To be honest, picking Gayle was a decision we made during the course of the action. When you have someone of his experience available, you don’t really think twice. And he has justified our faith and shown why he is the Universe Boss. He has been brilliant for us and accepted the challenge that lay in front of him with both hand. It is this attitude that separates legends from the others. He will only get better as the tournament progresses,” he said.
While Gayle has been at the top of his game, another batsman who has played a stellar role for KXIP is KL Rahul. The batsman has also doubled up as the wicket-keeper for the team and while there has been talks that KXIP might have missed picking a wicket-keeper at the auction, Hodge begs to differ.
“We had spoken to him before going ahead and assigning him the job behind the wicket. He was more than keen to double up and with us already clear that we wanted KL to keep wickets, we didn’t feel the need to have another keeper in the squad. Also, his inputs to captain R Ashwin has been nothing short of brilliant. As far as his performance with the bat is concerned, we expect this sort of a show from one of the best youngsters in the business,” he smiled.
Talking of Ashwin, it has been an unorthodox choice from the franchise to name a bowler as captain, but Hodge says the decision was a result of the homework the team management had done going into the auction.
“Once we got him at the auction, we were certain that we wanted Ashwin to lead the side. Just like Ashwin likes to do his homework going into a game, we had done our homework and thought that we wanted someone like him to lead this unit from the front. He is very intelligent and reads the game well. Also, he has been exceptional when it comes to guiding the young forces in the team. In the past, KXIP has had situations wherein there has been a change of captain midway in the season. We didn’t want that this time round,” he explained.
Another interesting factor has been the young Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The bowler has picked 7 wickets in 7 matches at an economy rate of 6.51. You cannot expect more from a 17-year-old youngster and Hodge is mighty pleased.
“He has been brilliant. He has exceeded expectations with his performance and most importantly, he wants to keep improving and contribute more to the team’s cause. He has also been trying to pick the brain of Ashwin and he is undoubtedly someone who has impressed us all with his attitude and performance,” he said.
While there have been quite a few highs for the franchise this season, one of the lows has to be Yuvraj Singh’s performance. But Hodge isn’t overtly perturbed by that and feels that the senior campaigner will return stronger.
“He had scores of 80 and 140 odd in our first two practice games and showed that he still has the game to succeed against the best. It is just a matter of time that he is back scoring runs. Also, he has been brilliant around the team and that is what is important if you ask me. He is a big personality and youngsters have a lot to learn from him. Expect him to come back strongly,” the 43-year-old said.
Finally, no discussion on KXIP is complete without a word on Director of Cricket Operations Virender Sehwag. And Hodge says that it has been a treat working with the former India opener. “The kind of input he gives is something that has helped us in a lot of situations. It has been a privilege to work with someone of Sehwag’s stature. He brings in a wealth of experience and that is something you can feed off. I think we have collaborated well and that is one of the reasons why KXIP has achieved the success it has so far this season. Hopefully, we can go the full distance,” he signed off.
First Published: May 2, 2018, 9:11 AM IST