And anyone who has watched Kevin Pietersen closely in the Delhi Daredevils dugout this Pepsi IPL, will vouch for his commitment and passion, for his team and his sport.
Despite being sidelined by a finger injury, Pietersen has been anything but detached from the on-field action. With the calm Gary Kirsten by his side, the Daredevils captain has been seen thoroughly involved in the events unfolding on the other side of the boundary rope.
For an intense sportsman, he was also kind enough to have a chat with iplt20.com after his team copped their second loss in the tournament, against Chennai Super Kings.
The interview brought out various aspects of Pietersen’s personality. His conviction as the leader of the group was blended with the respect for his subordinates. His graciousness in defeat emanated from the unwavering belief that there was victory ahead. His stress on the importance of practice and preparation belied his genius with the cricket bat.
As for his fans, the most delightful thing he told us was that he is all but fit to play Delhi Daredevils’ next match, on April 25, against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Here are excerpts from his interview:
When will we see you back on the field? Your team seems to be missing you.
I don’t know if they are missing me. This is a long tournament; we’ve played three matches and won one. We didn’t get into the race today. Unfortunately, Nathan Coulter-Nile, who is our strike bowler and a wicket-taker, went down.
As for me, I’m going to hopefully be back in the next game after I train well for a week. I have trained a couple of days, but it hasn’t been an ideal start going into this tournament. I had good practice for a couple of weeks in London, but then hurt myself and have had three weeks off. I just need another good week of training and then I’ll be back.
Although you are on the sidelines, we see you very much involved and animated in the dugout. Do you feel like part of the action even though you’re not playing?
Absolutely yes. It’s imperative for me to play a significant role as a senior figure in the dressing room. You need to reach out to the players and help them out. Yes, I have handed the reigns of the team to DK (Dinesh Karthik) but I’ve also got to help him. We’re all a part of the senior group in the squad and the onus is on us to look after each other. The young guys need guidance from us and we too need to know how they want to go about things.
Sitting outside, have you been playing a role in the on-field decision-making?
Not really, that’s all DK. We can only talk about what might happen out there and put some ideas forward. When the team crosses the rope, it’s DK who takes it all out there and runs the show as he seems fit for the team.
How has it been working so closely with Gary Kirsten?
Gary is people’s person. He’s fantastic to be around. He’s one of those guys with whom you want to hang around; he’s infectious. He’s got such a calming influence, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, you get the same positive vibes from him. I think that’s really important for the players and especially for the youngsters. You don’t want a coach who gets jittery and goes up, down and all over the place.
You are one of the constants in this completely new-look team. Do you feel fresh energy around you in the dressing room?
Absolutely. I thought the guys made some very good picks at the auction. Yes, we didn’t start the tournament as well as we wanted to but the IPL is a marathon, not a sprint. We do not need to worry about the first three-five games. As long as we get into a winning streak with game sixth-tenth, we’re going to finish this tournament really well.
As the captain of the team, what is that one thing that you’d want to introduce as an essential part of the Daredevils’ team culture?
I want all the guys in the team to know that there is no pressure. I want all the players to relax and play to the best of their ability. Another important thing for me as a leader is that the guys train well. According to me, the training should be so thorough and intense that the game-day becomes easier. If you prepare well, you cannot ask for anything more off yourself; there will be no pressure. If you go into the game knowing that you’ve done all the correct things off the field, who are we to complain about what happens on the field?
DD have a strong pace attack but does it feel like the team is a bit light in the spin department?
I don’t think so. I think Shahbaz Nadeem is a fantastic bowler. Rahul (Sharma) has played for India as well. Hindsight is a very good sight; it’s easy to say, ‘I think we needed to get this and that’ but let’s not hurry in making such decisions, let’s wait until the tournament ends and we’ll see where we get to.