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Shirin Sadikot in Bengaluru 12 May 2014 - 06:39pm IST

We’re in dilemma over Duminy’s role: Kirsten

DD coach wants team’s most in-form batsman to face most balls but also finish games

There are many things that have gone wrong for Delhi Daredevils in Pepsi IPL 2014. The injury and subsequent lack of form of Kevin Pietersen, the loss of their bowling spearhead, Nathan Coulter-Nile, to injury and the struggles of Mohammad Shami. However, perhaps, the most pressing question the DD fans have on their minds is ‘Why does JP Duminy, DD’s best batsman this season (average of 71 and strike-rate of 135) walk out to bat at No.5 often performing the catching up role after a top-order failure?’

Daredevils coach, Gary Kirsten, on the eve of their match against Royal Challengers Bangalore, admitted that Duminy’s batting position is a tricky matter and the management is torn up as to whether he should solidify the top order or continue to play the finisher.

“As a coach you always sit on that – do you get your best batsman to face the most number of balls or do you use him to finish,” Kirsten said. “MS Dhoni never bats higher up the order because he is such a good finisher. RCB generally keep AB de Villiers back to finish. We sit with the same problem when it comes to Duminy – whether we keep him for the last five-six overs, where he’s been devastating, or do we use him earlier to play a slightly different role. We’ve been caught in between.”

Kirsten cited DD’s last game, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, when Laxmi Ratan Shukla was sent ahead of Duminy at No.5. He reasoned the decision, while admitting it didn’t work like they expected it to.

“In the last game, that certainly was the case. I was about four balls away from asking JP to go in next. Then Mayank Agarwal got out and we made a decision to send Laxmi Ratan Shukla instead just for that time so that JP could bat in the end. It didn’t work out like we wanted it to, but that’s the risk you run. The one thing I will tell you is that as coaches we don’t always get it right. I am learning and making mistakes, and hopefully, as a team we are learning through the losses.

“Yes, ultimately, you do want your best batsman to face the most balls, but you also want the best of both worlds and are looking for them to finish games for you,” the coach said.

That conundrum, however, seems to be solving itself now that Kevin Pietersen has some runs under his belt, especially the 19-ball 35 against SRH. Kirsten is pleased to have the captain back in some sort of form and he hopes that it is a sign of some big runs to come.

“When he is playing, he is massive to the team,” Kirsten said of Pietersen. “He’s been a fantastic captain and a big contributor to the younger guys who look up to him. But like any captain, when he’s playing at his best, you can add about 20 percent to the team. In the last game, we decided to open the batting with him to free him up a bit, and it looks like he got something going there. We’re hoping it was the start of some good things.”

The coach also hopes that having Pietersen among the runs in the top order will allow the likes of Duminy to play freely later in the innings, and hence augment the team total even further.

“I think in most games, we set ourselves up for 160 because we finished really well. Maybe we could have got to 180 if the top order had scored some runs. JP and Kedar Jadhav have finished the last four or five games well for us and now we need to ensure they are not playing catch-up all the time by getting some runs in the top order,” Kirsten said.

With seven losses from nine matches, the Daredevils are on the verge of being eliminated from Playoff contention and Kirsten admits it is the result of many things gone wrong.

“It’s been a mixture of things. Our bowling hasn’t been on the mark in some games and then our batting hasn’t clicked in the others. I think our performance has been inconsistent. We have done some good things on the field but haven’t been able to continue them. In T20, if you want to put pressure on the opposition, you’ve got to have really good phases in a game where you dominate to cross the line,” he said.

While result-wise Kirsten’s maiden IPL voyage has been rather tough, he has enjoyed being part of the tournament and considers it as an opportunity to grow as a coach.

“I’ve really enjoyed the season and it’s been a fantastic experience for me. The biggest challenge for me is that this is a new team for me. It takes time to get your combination right and understand what your players can do in certain situations in a highly pressurised competition like this.

“It has been a learning curve for me to understand those things. Sometimes, I get frustrated when we take a backward step, but very seldom has that happened. I believe we are continuously improving as a team.”

Kirsten, who oversaw India and South Arica’s rise to the top of the world rankings in Test cricket and won the 2011 World Cup at the helm with India, also described how extremely different it is to coach a national team from mentoring a franchise.

“Coaching a franchise is very different from being a coach of a country. With a national team there are many stakeholders watching closely, the pressure is high and the performance has to be good all the time. In a franchise, the base of stakeholders is a bit smaller. There is still responsibility of performance and the owners expect that, but it’s regional and not national.”

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