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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Gilly's gang did it

Gilchrist energy, batting prowess and cricketing acumen fuelled his team's charge. He was a friend first and then a leader. He ensured that veteran VVS Laxman and the upcoming star Rohit Sharma were both at ease. Being appointed captain for the full season gave Gilchrist a sense of ownership unlike probably in the first year when he took over from Laxman. After rarely tasting defeat while playing for Australia, Gilly, smarting after finishing last in Season One was determined than ever before to inculcate a winning culture in the team.

Indians shining
The Chargers benefited as their young Indian players clicked. RP Singh was coming off an injury but bowled beautifully and took 23 wickets and won the Purple Cap. Pragyan Ojha, the 22-year-old left-arm spinner, bowled with precision to end up with 18 wickets. Rohit Sharma, the vice-captain of the side, made it count with both the bat and the ball. He took a hat-trick and also won matches off his own bat. Sharma made 362 runs, a good number of them in the death when the team was chasing an unlikely victory.

Smart buys
Ryan Harris signed a contract with the team in late 2008. A Redbacks teammate of Darren Lehman, Harris was picked following the coach's recommendation. Harris bowled with a lot of heart and added to the batting depth of the side. Also the team management made two smart buys during the second auction. They acquired two West Indian players, Fidel Edwards and Dwayne Smith, for $150,000 and $100,000 respectively. While Smith pulled his weight it was Edwards, with the new ball, who struck telling blows in the early part of the tournament.

Super Symo
Andrew Symonds is that kind of a player whose mere presence in the line-up can deflate the confidence of the opposition. After flying in after the one-day series against Pakistan, Symonds made 60 off 36 balls against Kings XI Punjab to announce his arrival. He didn't perform consistently with the bat but added value by bowling smartly and fielding brilliantly. He was also constantly seen having a go at the opposition, especially the younger players, and getting under their skin. After missing out on a place in the Ashes squad, Symo was more determined to enjoy the game and prove a point.

New staff, fresh ideas
A lot of the camaraderie that Rajasthan Royals displayed in the first season of the IPL was attributed to the team-building exercises set in motion by Darren Lehman. As Chargers coach, he combined well with Gilly. He wore a smile on his face no matter how the match was poised and wore his happy-go-lucky attitude lightly. Cash incentives were used to get the best out of players and it worked. The Chargers also got Steve Smith, known to be a good fitness guru, into the picture. In the end the combination worked as the team excelled on the field and enjoyed themselves off it.

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