The Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament is set to start on April 18 and all the teams are busy finalising their plans. With eight team in the fray and top international stars, the tournament promises to be smash hit. CNN-IBN’s Meha Bhardwaj spoke to team management of the Mohali team - King’s XI Punjab. Captain of King’ XI Punjab Yuvraj Singh, team member S Sreesanth, coach Tom Moody and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Neil Maxwell joined Meha to answer a host of questions on the IPL, team strategy, etc.
Meha Bhardwaj: Yuvraj, let’s begin by asking you. It’s been a while now where people have been talking about Yuvraj Singh who could go on to become the next captain and here you are the captain of the this IPL team. Are you excited about that job and looking forward to it?
Yuvraj Singh: It’s a good platform for me because I get to captain the side and obviously one day you dream to captain India, So it’s a good start. Obviously it is a privilege and pleasure to captain such talented players of the team – players like Brett Lee, Sangakkara, who are great international players. It looks very exciting and we are all looking forward to it.
Meha Bhardwaj: Do you see this as a stepping stone to Indian captaincy now?
Yuvraj Singh: Yes, of course. To play with younger and international players, you get a good group and you get to play a lot of competitive cricket and you get to learn a lot of things. So it is good for my future in captaincy.
Meha Bhardwaj: Tom, being an all-rounder yourself, you’ve got an all-round depth in this team, the synergy you have. You have the likes of Irfan Pathan, Kumar Sangakkara. Are you happy with the composition of the team?
Tom Moody: Yeah, we’re all very happy. We feel that we’ve got the right balance for this format of the game. Twenty20 cricket is a unique game and it’s captured the imagination of everyone really. We’ve put in a lot of hardwork in team to fill it with balance in our side. We’ve filled it with both bat and ball. We’ve covered all bases.
Meha Bhardwaj: I want to take you back to the time of the big auction. All the players were literally, to use the language, put out there for everyone to put their bet on. As players, what were you going through when you got know that so and so has been bought by a certain team for x amount of dollars?
Yuvraj Singh: It was pretty exciting because on one side you were playing Australia and I was talking to Tom on the phone about who we want and what are our best options. And every moment when Preity and Ness won at the auctions, I used to get a text saying we’ve got a certain player so it was quite funny and quite exciting to see the auction going on.
Meha Bhardwaj: What about you Sree? Preity through out said she wanted Sreesanth in her team and finally she got what she wanted, be it Brett Lee or you. What were you going through as a player at that point with people putting their bets on you?
S Sreesanth: We were not worried about it actually. We were playing in Australia and we knew the auctions were happening and to be very honest on that day, I had gone out shopping and when I got back my mom called me and said that it is going live and Preity is clapping and she has got you. So it was fun. It was nice and it was the first time something like this was happening in cricket. It was more like English Premier League. It was very exciting.
Yuvraj Singh: Well, I got a message that Sreesanth is in your team and I was like ‘Oh, No’.
Meha Bhardwaj: I wanted to get back to that. Now it is different when you are sharing the dressing room with Sreesanth and you are not the captain. Now Sreesanth really believes that he has become really shaant (quiet) and the last interview that I did with him, he said that he was doing a lot of yoga, meditation and he is calm. You didn’t get to see it in the first Test match against South Africa. There was a bit of stuff happening on the field. But when you have Sreesanth in your dressing room, how are you going to deal with him?
Yuvraj Singh: Yeah, it is going to be exciting. We will keep him quite and make sure that he does his yoga and meditation, which he is talking about.
Meha Bhardwaj: Sreesanth are you going to follow that?
S Sreesanth: Yeah. Even if he doesn’t say also them I think I will follow that. So with regards to he being the captain, for sure.
Meha Bhardwaj: Okay, Neil you are known to have brought all the Australian players into the IPL and it was a tricky thing. What really went into it when you were going about doing that?
Neil Maxwell: I think predominantly the speed at which it had to happen was the issue. The players found it hard to grasp what the concept of IPL was and how it was going to impact them. At the time also the Australian players, the heads were so full of all the issues that were going on in their game and in the series with India. A few of them even didn’t want to think about it. Andrew Symonds, for example, was one of the last to sign. He was not going to come until a few hours before the second deadline and I think he is reasonably happy that he has made that commitment now.
Tom Moody: Don’t get me to answer that because I am not going to give you the teams that I think are the favourites because I am very comfortable without that. But I think what we have got to realize is Twenty20 cricket allows everyone to compete in a very close, competitive environment. It is condense cricket, full of action three-hour package. Each team in the IPL is full of high-class international players. They have also got the cream of young talent throughout India. So what we are going to see is some very, very top-class cricket through out the tournament. I personally believe that the team that will be the most successful team will be the one that manages to gel a young group and an experienced group with international stars the best. So they are playing as one.
Meha Bhardwaj: Which team would that be?
Tom Moody: Obviously us.
Meha Bhardwaj: Ok. Tom refuses to tell us who is his favourite other than own team. When it comes to you who do you think would be the strongest contenders?
S Sreesanth: Any team, which plays on that given day. In Twenty20, I think, all are good sides and all are good combinations. But our team is the best.
Meha Bhardwaj: Are there going to be specific individuals that you are targeting?
S Sreesanth: Not really. Anybody who comes under the helmet.
Meha Bhardwaj: You will have to watch out Yuvi.
Yuvraj Singh: No, I like the attitude.
Meha Bhardwaj: But do you have any favourite? Any team?
Yuvraj Singh: As Tom said in Twenty20 anything can happen and all the teams are well balanced and it is very important that which ever team is going to win the tournament has to gel together. So at the moment, our team is looking very strong and it is going to be a great competition. It is not going to be easy winning the tournament.
Meha Bhardwaj: What’s the kind of message you would like to give to all the King’s XI fan club? What would you say to them?
Yuvraj Singh: When you talk about King’s XI you talk about lot of passion and pride and loyalty, which the Punjabi people have. Spreading around the message that we all want you to come and watch us play and enjoy the game and want your support. Punjabis are quite aggressive in body language and I am sure we are going to have a lot of good support.
Meha Bhardwaj: He is not one but he is still aggressive. Sree what would you like to say?
S Sreesanth: As I said no matter what format you play, I just want to say that they are going to enjoy the game. We are going to our best and result is surely going to show.
Meha Bhardwaj: And aggressively?
S Sreesanth: Yeah. For sure. We are the Kings so that’s how we will do it.
Meha Bhardwaj: OK. So King’s XI likes to play with passion. They have a lot of loyalty to the game and let’s just hope that you bring that across when you play the tournament. Thank you all for joining us.