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IPL Staff in New Delhi 16 May 2012 - 10:53pm IST

Winning’s a good habit: Mahela

DD unlikely to tinker with their winning combination

One of the most balanced teams in IPL 2012, Delhi Daredevils are sitting on the top of the points table. Consistent performers in the league phase, they have come out on top in tough situations and earned their place in the playoffs.

They take on the Royal Challengers Bangalore, pushing for a place in the final four, in their last game at their home ground, Feroz Shah Kotla. Ahead of the match, vice-captain Mahela Jayawardene and coach TA Sekar spoke to the media about the team’s performance so far.

Excerpts from the pre-match press conference:

On having sealed a place in the playoffs


Mahela:
One of the goals that we set was to qualify and then try and finish in the top two which would give us the advantage [to make it to the final]. But at the same time, the next two games are very important for us going into the playoffs. We need to make sure that we consistently perform and improve in the areas that need improvement. Winning is a good habit to have. If we can continue to do that it will probably help us in the playoffs as well.

On whether the middle-order batting was a concern for the team

Mahela:
[...] It is good that the top order is scoring runs. 60-70 percent of T20 games are won on [the basis of] the top-order guys scoring runs. After that it is just about how you handle situations. If you see the [top] ten batters in the IPL, all are openers or No. 3 batsman, so that’s where a game is won. It is when the top order doesn’t do [well] that the responsibility falls on [the middle order]. Yesterday we handled the situation pretty well. Naman [Ojha] batted extremely well and then Irfan [Pathan] came and finished the game off. So if we can continue to improve on that [then] I think that’s another added advantage for us. We have two explosive openers and they pretty much can win a game for us. Going forward, we just need to keep improving. The middle order is not a concern but it is about us handling those situations in a better way.

On giving other players an opportunity in the remaining games

That is something that we will discuss with the management but we don’t want to experiment too much. I think that has been a good formula for us. In the entire tournament we haven’t chopped and changed too much. We have been very consistent in our selections. We have only changed personnel according to the conditions and opposition, which has worked for us. Given the opposition and the conditions, we might make a few [changes] in the next few games.

On his own form and on being part of a team that has been performing very well


Mahela: In the first three years [with] Kings XI [Punjab], I think we were in the semi-finals in the first year and we lost; apart from that, we were very close. The form has been good. I have had a different role in each and every franchise that I have played. [...] In Delhi [Daredevils] I have a different responsibility. I am quite happy with it. I wish I had contributed a bit more in various games in a different way but at the end of the day it is about winning matches and we have done that really well. As long as we continue to do that, that’s the most important thing. If I can contribute in a winning cause, that’s what I am looking for.

On the two teams that he has been associated with – Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils


Sekar: Most of the IPL teams function in a similar manner [...] Fortunately, I went to one of the top sides. The year I was at [MI], they came to the top and when I came back [to DD], luckily we built a very good team around [Virender] Sehawg, Mahela and Kevin Pietersen, so we are on top today. Work ethics wise it is similar with every [team].

On planning an attack to thwart RCB’s batting


Sekar: We have already played RCB in the initial round and at that time we didn’t have Mahela, [Kevin] Pietersen or [David] Warner. Our bowlers knew exactly what to do. All our players watch other matches so they know exactly what to do and what not to do. We have experienced bowlers like Morne Morkel. Umesh Yadav has been having a very good run and then Varun Aaron has come back after an injury. The bowlers know exactly what to do and what not to do [....]. We don’t put pressure on our bowling group at all.

On the wicket


Sekar:
The Kotla wicket is always the same. It doesn’t change much

On Virender Sehwag as captain


Mahela: He is brilliant. This is the first time that I have played under him. He is very relaxed and gives a lot of freedom to players, which is very important. Everyone has responded very well to that. The bowlers have a lot of freedom to do what they want to do; they talk to Viru about the game. We try and execute plans but it’s tough when you go out there in the middle; things can change [on the field]. In the [space of a] few balls, we have to adapt to a situation; Viru has handled those situations very well. He is relaxed when he batting as well so that reflects in his captaincy. Everyone is quite happy. It’s a happy dressing room [...] Above all, he is performing as well; he is relaxed, so everything works well for us.

On DD having lost the playoffs previously and the likelihood of getting across the line this year


Mahela: It’s a fair question but all the teams are in that situation when they are going into the playoffs. I cannot predict what is going to happen. What I can control is how we perform and our focus will be on that. If you ask Chennai Super Kings or Rajasthan Royals or Deccan Chargers – teams that have won [in the past] – they would say the same thing. When you are going into the playoffs, anything can happen on the day. You just need to have a lot of confidence in what you have done in the last three or four weeks. You need to go out there and enjoy yourself and not put a lot of pressure on yourself. That’s how we are going to approach it. As seniors we will try and ensure that the youngsters are relaxed going into those playoffs and try and give it our best. That’s what the franchise wants us to do and we will control that.

Sekar: If you look at the playoffs, the third year [shows a change] as compared with the first and the second year. In South Africa we were No. 1 [in the league phase], and then after one bad day on the field we were out of the competition. But now it is not like that. If you finish at No. 1 or 2, even if you lose the [first playoff], you get another chance to get to the final. That is a better option to have. [...] It was one bad day, one knock by Adam Gilchrist and we lost the opportunity to go to the next level [that year]. Most IPL teams aim to finish at No. 1 or 2 so that they get two chances to go to the final.

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