The summer sun threatened to bake the Wankhede Stadium as the Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s players turned more often to the comfort of the fluids. The pre-game warm-ups could wait, for most at least.
But Daniel Vettori was an exception. He was relentless. A quick glance of the strip later, he discussed batting with some of the local batsmen in the Bangalore ranks and then appeared to exchange notes with the bowlers. Amidst all the deliberations, New Zealand’s most successful spinner even rolled his arm over for a bit of left-arm spin.
But when it was time for the game to start, Vettori’s name was not part of the playing XI. The former New Zealand captain and current head coach of RCB found a comfortable seat under the roof of the dug out for the next three and a half hours as his team locked horns with the hosts.
Those who had flocked the stands about an hour before the game could be forgiven had their anticipation of watching Vettori in action soared, based on the warm-up drill.
After all, Vettori had taken up the role of Bangalore’s head coach even before his international career ended. While he continued to play cricket for New Zealand as well as in the Big Bash League and the Caribbean Premier League till June 2015, he donned the coach’s hat for Virat Kohli’s team in 2014.
Mumbai Indians’ head coach Mahela Jayawardene sat in a similarly comfortable seat in the opposite camp. He had retired from international cricket along with Vettori after the 2015 World Cup, but is coming off a stint as a player in the Pakistan Super League and New Zealand’s Super Smash recently, making him another case of an active cricketer taking up a coaching role in the IPL. The Sri Lankan legend had briefly been a consultant with the England team before, but the Mumbai Indians role was the real deal.
Jaques Kallis too has been coaching the Kolkata Knight Riders since 2016. But his stint as a part of the support staff started when he was appointed as the team’s mentor in 2015. Back then, he was still playing in the Caribbean Premier League and the Big Bash.
The Gujarat Lions, on the other hand, have two active cricketers as a part of their coaching staff. Head Coach Brad Hodge still captains the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League, while Mohammad Kaif, the fielding coach, lead Chattisgarh in the Ranji Trophy last season.
IPL stint a springboard for international coaching jobs
The hurry to take up coaching roles in the IPL appears to stem from the opportunity the players perceive to move forward and coach teams at the international level.
The latest testimony to the fact is Ricky Ponting’s coaching graph. The Australian great was appointed as the head coach of the Mumbai Indians in 2015, and one championship in two seasons was enough for Australia to wake up to Ponting’s coaching credentials. The former Tasmanian batsmen always wanted to be in the Australian cricket mix, and he obliged when Cricket Australia came knocking.
“I always said when I retired that I wanted to get back involved and what better way to do it than alongside a couple of my best mates in cricket, Justin Langer and Jason Gillespie,” Ponting had expressed in a Cricket Australia press release, after he was appointed the assistant coach of the national team for the T20I series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, along with his former teammates.
Langer, with greater experience in the coaching arena, was the head coach for the series. And, he was clear about how the Australian team hoped to benefit from Ponting’s IPL stint. “His knowledge of the game and the way he reads it, coupled with his invaluable experience as an IPL coach with the Mumbai Indians means he knows the format inside-out.”
Like Ponting, Rahul Dravid accepted the coach’s role within the national set up after gaining experience in the IPL. The former India captain, who is the chief mentor with the Delhi Daredevils, is also the head coach of the India Under-19 and A sides. Speculation of his name being in contention for a role with the senior team has often been rife too.
Going back in time for fans
Apart from the IPL being a springboard for the recently retired cricketers to search for and attain more lucrative coaching pastures, it has also presented the fans with an opportunity to go back in time.
A host of the legends from the current generation of cricketers hung their boots over the last few years. But the IPL has brought them back to the supporters of the game who were worried that their favourite stars may not have much to do with cricket anymore. They may not be on field anymore, but they are at the heart and soul of the teams as a part of the backroom staff.
‘Sachin, Sachin’ the Wankhede chanted in unison when the Mumbai Indians were batting against RCB. It has been over three years since Sachin Tendulkar retired from the game, but the 32,000-strong crowd in the South Mumbai stadium still chanted for Tendulkar, the icon of Mumbai Indians. As the icon player, Tendulkar is usually with the team, giving cricket fans across the country an opportunity to watch the legend and refresh their fond memories.
In fact, the IPL treats the Indian fans with a flavour of their favourite former cricketers. The explosive Virender Sehwag, who is the director of cricket operations at the Kings XI Punjab, still remains a crowd favourite every time he walks out onto the field with the team he oversees. Likewise, VVS Laxman, who has been associated with Sunrisers Hyderabad for a while, enjoys immense support.
Dravid was moved into the role of the mentor at Rajasthan Royals after he bid the game adieu as well. Once the Royals were suspended in the spot-fixing case, the Daredevils brought one of India’s finest batsmen on in the same capacity. For fans, it was an opportunity to see another of India’s cricketing hero in and around the cricket field for a while longer.
The IPL Support Staff Squad
The support staff of almost all the IPL teams has stellar players from the last decade. So star-studded are the options that the coaches, mentors and icons of the teams could combine to make a strong fantasy squad of 15 that is well equipped in every department. Here’s a look at just how illustrious such a squad would be.
- Virender Sehwag (Kings XI Punjab)
- Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai Indians)
- Mahela Jayawardene (Mumbai Indians)
- Brad Hodge (Gujarat Lions)
- Mohammad Kaif (Gujarat Lions)
- Stephen Fleming (Rising Pune Supergiant)
- VVS Laxman (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
- Simon Katich (Kolkata Knight Riders)
- Rahul Dravid (Delhi Daredevils)
- Jacques Kallis (Kolkata Knight Riders)
- Daniel Vettori (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
- Heath Streak (Gujarat Lions)
- Shane Bond (Mumbai Indians)
- Muthiah Muralitharan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
- Laxmipathy Balaji (Kolkata Knight Riders)