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Sanjay Bangar turning the page for Indian coaches

Sanjay Bangar has received plaudits for his show wth Kings XI Punjab over the past few weeks. 

While the cameras constantly kept panning on the effervescent co-owner of Kings XI Punjab Preity Zinta during the IPL 7 auction, an assiduous figure in the backdrop was busy devising the best algorithm for her franchisee to rise above the also-ran tag. Having lost out on their number one target Yuvraj Singh, the Mohali outfit made quick amends to cover up for the left hander and in fact assembled a squad which many touted as the most balanced unit at the end of the buying process.

And Sanjay Bangar’s careful selection of players has proved so in the weeks that followed. With their win over Rajasthan on Friday, KXIP have booked the number one berth in the group stages irrespective of the result of their last match against Delhi; their best performance after the first season which saw them make it as far as the semi-finals.

Given the volatile nature of the shortest format of the game, the play-offs could well blow up in the face of the group stage toppers but their journey up till here has been a personification of Sanjay Bangar’s coming of age as a coach.

The former Indian cricketer started off with Cheteshwar Pujara to partner Virender Sehwag on the untried UAE pitches, where a solid pivot was needed to provide stability in the rather boom-boom batting order. The retained Manan Vohra later deputised.

The express pace of the handlebar-moustached Mitch Johnson spearheading the bowling-attack comprises of the variations of the Indian warhorse Balaji, the revelations in the form of Sandeep Sharma and Akshar Patel, and Rishi Dhawan who has silently proved his worth in the middle overs. The offie Shivam Sharma has come in whenever the opposition had an abundance of left handers, Murli Kartik when you needed experience. There has been a plan in place for everything, precisely what a coach is hired for doing.

An empty slate to build upon has been the key for success in this case. Bangar who was initially appointed as the assistant coach of the team back in January, took over as the head coach following unavailability of the team owners’ prior options. The appointment of himself and former Australian cricketer Jow Dawes as the main coaching staff has gone great guns for the men in red and grey.

Bangar has spoken of the luxury of working on a ‘clean sheet’ and how it has benefited in the rebuilding process. Adam Gilchrist did not want to continue, either playing or in the coaching staff whereas, the only players to be retained were the hard-hitting David Miller and the fringe Manan Vohra. Owing to the same, there was room for huge amounts of revamping and the job has been carried out almost perfectly.

A player till the 2012/13 season of the Ranji Trophy, Bangar had been closely following this season’s proceedings. Also having played with and against certain players helped him understand their ability to deliver under pressure. After all, the scouting along with former assistant coach Vikram Rathore, a shortlist was prepared and most of the players were successfully bagged during the auction. Bangar’s homework has paid off in the form of Punjab’s best display in the seven-year history of the tournament.

A graduate of NCA’s Level ‘A’ coaches course, Bangar has also been working as a consultant with the academy in Bangalore. He was also considered by the Punjab franchise for a coaching role before the previous season but perhaps a lack of first-hand experience failed him. The coaching role with India A was then a key boost on his CV. Under him, the team whitewashed their New Zealand counterparts in the limited overs series while drew both the unofficial Tests last year.

The 41-year-old, who is the only individual apart from Vijay Hazare to have achieved a double of 6,000 runs and 200 wickets in the Ranji Trophy, was always sure of being a coach post hanging up his boots. However it has not been a bed of roses, yet the former Indian cricketer has managed to come a long way.

Competing with against coaches of the order of Gary Kirsten, Trevor Bayliss, Tom Moody, Stephen Fleming, Paddy Upton, John Wright and Daniel Vettori, Bangar has turned over a new leaf as the only Indian head coach in the competition. Out of all the things that this might have done, it has at least borne testimony to Venkatesh Prasad’s appeal to the IPL team owners to look into Indian coaches.

With the chorus led by interim BCCI President Sunil Gavaskar growing to do away with foreign coaches, IPL which has bred talented players over the years may well give India a coaching prospect for the future. Notably Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Kris Srikkanth with their unsullied cricketing credentials, along with other established domestic coaches like Vijay Dahiya will also be in the running when it comes to coaching options for the coming years.

The previous generation of fans remembers Sanjay Bangar for his 68 at the top of the order in the Headingley Test in 2002, he promises to make a mark as a coach in the minds of the next.

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