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'Important to prepare well for IPL auction'

By HARISH KOTIAN
December 17, 2019 10:57 IST
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'You should do a detailed study on what exactly you want for the team looking at the season ahead.'
'If you are not clear with your plans you will get carried away at the auction table.'

IMAGE: Pravin Amre flanked by Delhi Capitals Head Coach Ricky Ponting, right, and Advisor Sourav Ganguly,left during the IPL earlier this year. Photograph: BCCI
 

Pravin Amre's long stint with the Delhi Capitals came to an end when the former Mumbai batsman quit his post as the IPL franchise's talent scout chief.

Under Amre, who played 11 Tests and 37 ODIs for India, the Delhi Capitals unearthed some of India's brightest young talents including Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Prithvi Shaw, who have all blossomed under his guidance and since graduated from the IPL to playing for the national team.

Before Delhi, Amre, 51, was associated with the now-defunct Pune Warriors team during their three-year stint in the IPL as assistant coach where he worked with Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Amre, who hit a century on debut for India against South Africa in Durban in November 1992, has been instrumental in shaping the careers of many Indian batting stars like Ajinkya Rahane, Iyer, Robin Uthappa and Suresh Raina.

On the eve of this year's IPL players auction, Amre discusses the pressure of being part of the auctions with Rediff.com's Harish Kotian.

Why did you quit the Delhi Capitals?

I was at Delhi Capitals for five years. My daughter is now playing tennis for the state (Maharashtra) so I needed to find time for her.

I have also started my own set-up, my own academy. I wanted to be there because once you have an academy, people expect you to be there.

It was a great experience for me and I am really thankful to the GMR group, the original owners of the Delhi Daredevils (now the Delhi Capitals) who first brought me to the franchise five years ago.

My job was to get the best talent from all over India to the Delhi franchise. We discovered so many young talented players who have gone on to play for India, like Khaleel Ahmed, whom we picked for Rs. 10 lakh and in the next auction, he got a big amount. Khaleel also went on to play for the country.

The fact that the talent we picked went on to represent India was more important to me basically. The same thing happened with Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw. They were all Under-19 players. These players all came in very young, they had never played T20s, but we saw the potential.

We backed them and they are now the main pillars of the Delhi Capitals. They are part of the Indian team in the T20 format. So when you see these players doing well at the highest level, it gives you immense satisfaction.

Wasn't it taking a big gamble bringing in young untested players in a franchise-based tournament like the IPL where only results matter?

It was challenging for sure. In the beginning it was frustrating. You know in my first four years we were a failure, we never qualified for the play-offs.

In franchise cricket, you have to be successful and as you said, only results matter.

We finally got it right last year when we made it to the play-offs and finished third after scoring 18 points in the league stages for the first time.

That gave us a lot of satisfaction. We kept fighting and we kept backing our players.

Everyone was saying they are too young, they lack experience, but we believed in our process.

We knew from the start that this process would take a couple of years and once things fell into place, the results will be there for the next five years, which is happening now.

Shreyas Iyer

IMAGE: Delhi Capitals Captain Shreyas Iyer. Photograph: BCCI

Then last year you gave the captaincy to a rookie like Shreyas Iyer who hadn't played much of international cricket till that stage after Gautam Gambhir quit. What was the thinking behind Iyer's sudden elevation?

It was not planned that Iyer will lead, it happened by accident.

In a high-pressure tournament like the IPL, you would prefer an experienced player to lead the team. But unfortunately Gautam Gambhir was not in form and he stepped down after five matches.

We didn't have another capable player to take over as captain at that point. Shreyas was the only person who had been with the franchise for four years. He had performed well with the bat during those four years and earned the respect of his team-mates.

In the IPL, earning the respect of overseas players is very critical for any captain. I think Shreyas was able to get it and that helped us to take the decision to appoint him as captain.

You have been a coach for a long time and have also been at different IPL team in various capacities.
What kind of impact can a coach make during the two months he gets with the players, especially the younger lot like Pant, Shaw and Iyer?

The IPL comes at the fag end of the season. Some players have played so much cricket by that stage that one of the role of the coaches is to motivate them.

Some players have issues with their batting especially when they switch to the T20 format, so the coaches have to take care of that.

Even the coaches have to be ready when they go into a tournament like the IPL, they have to be mentally fresh too.

The coaches have to motivate the players to go out and deliver, not only for themselves, but also for the franchise.

The IPL is an important tournament for the players because if you fail in the IPL then people stop talking about you. So for the players, it is very important to be successful.

One young player who thrived under your watch at Delhi was Rishabh Pant. He made an immediate impact not only at Delhi, but also when he came into the Indian team.

Basically, he is a match-winner, that is all I would say.

As a coach, I observed right from the start that he was a brilliant talent, an outstanding player. As a coach I knew he would do well in the IPL.

Tell us about the atmosphere in the IPL auction room.
How much is the pressure when you have the team owners right next to you while you try to pick the best possible players at the best possible price?
Is it very crazy?

In the last eight years, I learnt about the IPL auctions, what happens and how.

It is important that you do your homework and prepare well. You should do a detailed study on what exactly you want for the team, looking at the season ahead. Then it becomes easier. If you are not clear with your plans, you will get carried away at the auction table.

I think it's so important to be very, very particular about what player you want to buy.

This time, a lot of the teams are sorted out basically. This time it is not the mega auction. The mega auction will be held next year wherein all the players go into the auction (except for the few retained by the franchises), then it is more challenging to decide whom to buy and at what price.

Our advice is very important, the franchise owners will trust us only. We are given the responsibility to pick the players, it's like we have bought that player at that price.

When we bought Shreyas, his starting price was Rs 10 lakh but we paid Rs 2 crore, 70 lakh in the end to buy him at the auction even though he had not played before. See how he has repaid our trust.

Sometimes as coach you have to back your gut feeling.

The coaches have to work, they have to study a lot of players. It is not only about their skills, you also have to know their mental side, if they are capable of coping with the pressure in a tournament like the IPL.

You have been part of many IPL auctions in the last eight years for the Delhi franchise and also for the Rising Pune Supergiants. Who would you say was your best buy?

I will say many players were best buys because so many of them have lived up to expectations or exceeded it also.

I personally feel Shreyas, Rishabh and Prithvi were some of the best buys for Delhi. Even someone like Trent Boult fared so well for us. My input was taken when we bought him for Rs 2.20 crore and he played 14 matches back to back, which was very good for us.

Players like Rishabh and Shreyas have now become marquee players for the franchise.

So if you see we saved the franchise some money for a couple of years because we bought those guys for their base price basically.

Rishabh Pant

IMAGE: Rishabh Pant has been one of the best buys for Delhi Capitals, says Pravin Amre. Photograph: BCCI

How much of an impact did Ricky Ponting have after he was named as Delhi Capitals coach for this year's IPL?

He was tremendous as a coach. He was giving time to each and every player, treating all of them equally and not just looking after the star players.

Every team member was equal to him. His communication was spot on, which I think is very important.

Everybody knows that in the 15 IPL games you can't play all the 25 players in your squad. Some of them don't get a chance, but Ponting made sure that those who were not playing stayed motivated and enjoyed the team's success.

After nine years, the Delhi franchise made it to the play-offs. I think the support staff played a big role in that and Ponting was the leader of that group.

This season Delhi have made some smart moves even before the auction like getting in the experienced duo of Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin during the trade window.
What was the reason you went for these two senior pros instead of trying to buy a few young stars at the auction?

At the auction, you don't get the best youngsters, they are a rare commodity. A 19 year old coming in and straightaway performing well in an IPL, that doesn't happen every year, only a few have been successful.

If you see the past 12 seasons of the IPL, only in the past five or six years have the youngsters done well. The experienced players continue to do well.

This year we won't have a big auction, this is just for one year only.

We will then have the mega auction next year, so people will only back the experienced players.

Next year, during the mega auction, they will try to buy more young players and build their team for the next three years.

Now people are looking for just one year, so every franchise will back the experienced players. But if there is some exceptional young talent they will definitely go for it.


Harish Kotian is Rediff.com's Cricket Editor. He can be contacted at harishk@rediff.co.in

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