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To bat with an on-song Virender Sehwag, and that too in a crucial match where you contribute in a cause to help your team qualify for the final of a big tournament, is a dream come true for any youngster. On Friday evening, against the Chennai Super Kings at Wankhede Stadium, it was Manan Vohra’s good fortune to be part of that scenario.
The Kings XI Punjab opener was involved in a 110-run opening stand with Sehwag, as KXIP looked to set CSK a formidable target. Vohra scored 34 runs as he held up one end, and he also watched the veteran opener take apart the opposition bowling attack with panache.
After helping the Kings XI Punjab make it to their first Final of the Indian Premier League, Vohra spoke about batting alongside the sensational cricketer and also KXIP’s Pepsi IPL 2014 campaign.
Excerpts from his brief interview:
How are you feeling right now upon reaching the Final?
Seriously, can’t believe it! It’s a dream come true. At the start of the season, we were expecting that we will do well with this team, but we never thought we were going to come so far. After losing that last game, against Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings was a tough competitor for us. So, it was amazing.
What was the view like watching Virender Sehwag from close quarters?
Wonderful! I wasn’t feeling like I was playing with such a big player. He had just taken all the pressure off me. He was just hitting every ball and it was going all the way. It was only his day. He was just superb!
It was my first 100-run partnership and second 50-run partnership. He was just telling me that we have done it twice. I was lucky to have such partnership with him. How has being with him helped your game?
Being with him has boosted me a lot. He has been telling me to stay calm. At each and every stage, he asks me to watch the ball and keep playing; he says, ‘You can do it.’ He is a great support at the other end.
Is there anything about Virender Sehwag's batsmanship that you have tried to inculcate in your own?
He has a different style of playing. The way he plays, he backs himself in every game. I think I need to watch my style of playing and back myself. I have seen the way his shot selection is and I need to improve on mine. I would like to do that.
What is it like to be a part of a new set-up and KXIP's run this season? And what do you think has been the major difference this year?
I think it has been a great campaign for us. We have been gelling well together as a team – the players the support staff, the coaches, everyone. There has been a lot of support from them and it has been great.
How would you sum up your run so far this season?
I think I have been doing well for the team. My role is to give good starts to the team and I have been doing so. So, I hope in the Final I give a big start.
What has been coach Sanjay Bangar’s influence?
He is a great gentleman. He has been steady about everything and very supportive.
Sunil Gavaskar carried India’s pride on his shoulders for many a years on the cricket pitch. It was, hence, no surprise that Indian Cricket called on his leadership in its rough times.
Taking over as the interim President of BCCI and IPL, Sunil Gavaskar batted for Indian Cricket with aplomb, once again. The credibility he brings to the table with his stature and his invaluable insight into the game has ensured Pepsi IPL 2014 has reached its business end without any unscrupulous incident.
As the seventh successful season of the tournament draws to an end, IPLT20.com spoke to Mr. Gavaskar about his experiences at the helm of the IPL.
Here are excerpts from his exclusive interview:
Has this stint opened your eyes to any aspect of the IPL that you didn’t know of previously?
From the administration point of view, to see how the logistics works, and trying to get everything together, has been a revelation. To see what kind of hard work goes into it has been an eye-opener. A lot of people, who come to the television control room, have their jaws dropping when they see the kind of work that needs to be done to get the picture to the viewer’s screen. While the players and commentators get all the kudos, it’s really the backroom boys, the engine room of the administration, and the TV coverage people that do all the hard work. Seeing all that closely has been a real revelation for me.
What is the biggest challenge that a former cricketer faces when he turns to administration?
The biggest challenge for him is to put forward some of the ideas he has and the suggestions he has based on of the observations he might have made while playing, and to convince the other members of the administration team to act on them. Often, we go by tradition and there’s reluctance to accept a change. That is the biggest challenge for a player-turned-administrator. Having said that, mine has been a really short stint, hardly four-five weeks. So, it’s not right for me to be judgmental about it.
Has it been easier for you to get your ideas incorporated, given your stature in Indian Cricket?
It has been a lot easier because frankly there has been very little change that’s required to be made. What I tried to do when I took over the job is to make the IPL organization a little more media-friendly and more accessible to the media. It is important to keep the media as informed as possible and try to keep them in loop so that there are no unwanted speculations and wild rumours. At the end of the day, it’s the media people who’ll have to say whether or not it has worked, but I do believe that this accessibility has given the BCCI and IPL a better face than before.
What has been the highlight of the season for you?
I think the highlight for me was the way the UAE leg went through. The response we got from fans and organizers there was incredible. The organization and the management went on very smoothly as well.
You spoke extensively in your opening ceremony speech about cleansing the game. The players and officials have a role to play in curbing corruption in cricket. Is there any way the fans can help?
The fans can actually help to a great extent because in the end it’s they who follow the game and it’s their belief that matters. They should stay away from all the loose talks that happen when the results don’t go their team’s way. That’s when all the speculations happen. It’s important for the fans to have faith in the cricketing fraternity. Just because one or two players have gone down the wrong road, it doesn’t mean the rest of the players are guilty. That is what the fans should actually believe in. The fans only believe what they are fed by the media. Why has the media become so cynical and how can we change that?
The media has a job to do – the print media needs to sell their papers and the electronic media has to take care of their ratings. Sometimes, they can go overboard. But having said that, the media plays an important role in popularizing the game. They are one of the pillars of the sport. Just because they get a tad carried away when it comes to India’s most popular sport, I don’t think we should hold it against them. We should be thankful for the coverage that cricket gets in India from both the print and the electronic media.
What is that one thing that international cricket can adopt from the IPL?
It’s the marketability. The way this event is marketed and promoted, I think the other countries can take a cue from it to market, not only the T20s, but the other formats as well. And it’s not only the IPL management – the broadcasters, sponsors and other stakeholders have all come together and done a marvelous marketing job, which is why the tournament is increasing in popularity. What according to you is IPL’s biggest contribution to cricket?
It’s the respect among the cricketers of different countries. Prior to 2008, there was a lot of animosity among the players of different nationalities. Now, the intensity is still there and the players still play hard, but the animosity has come down incredibly. There will always be an odd player who will not be liked by an opposition, but that’s the fact of life. You don’t like everybody in your organization and there will always be a bit of friction there. But the number of on-field incidents has gone down remarkably. You’ll still find the occasional incident, but that’s about it.
If you could change one thing about the IPL, what would it be?
Nothing in particular because at the moment it is running well. It’s a tournament where you get to see some fantastic cricket. However, if I were given complete charge, I would insist on the pitches being good. That’s what I did when I landed in the UAE because I wasn’t sure if the pitches there would be good. I’ve always felt that on a good cricket pitch, you’ll get a good cricket game. That is something I would like to see more often. From the bowlers’ point of view, I’d like to see the boundaries being a bit longer. I do understand that certain distance is required between the boundary and the fence with all the sliding that the fielders do these days. But I still feel that the boundaries are being moved in a lot more than they should. At every ground I have seen, the boundaries could have been at least five to ten yards deeper. That would be the difference between a lot of those marginal sixes and a wicket for the bowler. It would also mean that a six is really a six.
Name one player from India’s 1983 side who would have been most successful in a tournament like the IPL and why?