Punjab Kings finished an underwhelming sixth in the previous four editions with their only final appearance coming way back in 2014
Trevor Bayliss (Pic: AFP)
New Punjab Kings head coach Trevor Bayliss has listed out death overs batting and wickets in the middle overs as the two key areas of improvement for the team aiming to end its title drought in the IPL.
Punjab finished an underwhelming sixth in the previous four editions with their only final appearance coming way back in 2014.
Bayliss, a World Cup winning coach who also guided KKR to two IPL trophies, is expected to turn an inconsistent Punjab into a consistent outfit.
The squad looks strong on paper and boasts the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone and Arshdeep Singh. Punjab had bought Curran for a record Rs 18.50 crore at the auction earlier this year.
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Speaking to PTI, the 60-year-old from Australia talked about the preparations for the IPL and his expectations from the players.
"One of things that we thought was lacking last year was not able to finish off innings with the bat. That was one of the reasons why we decided to go after a young all-rounder like Sam. He gives us a strength in the middle-order and he is a world class bowler as well.
"From the batting point of view, we want some of the guys in the top-order to go on and make those 70s and 80s, that makes it easier for the middle order," he said from Mohali where the team hosts KKR in its IPL opener.
Bayliss is working to create a pressure-free environment within the team as that is imperative for success.
"I want them to play the game for the reasons they started playing the game at the first place, which is the love for the game. I don't know what it was like in the past but I will run this team like I have always done.
"It doesn't guarantee success but we will enjoy ourselves and play with a smile on our face but when we need to we will do the hard yards in the practice field."
Having achieved success in international as well as franchise cricket, Bayliss believes the main players have to perform for any team to be consistent.
"I am not exactly sure if I can pin point one thing," he said when asked about the secret to success in an unforgiving format like the T20.
"From bowling point of view if you are taking wickets through the middle overs you are very tough to beat. Taking wickets in middle overs is very important.
"In this day and age, teams bat deep across the board. What you need is your main players scoring runs and taking wickets.
"How do you achieve that? To be in a good frame of mind, playing under less pressure and not be under pressure to perform. From my point of view it is about creating an environment that takes the pressure off all the players," he said.
'Very tough to beat someone like Jonny'
Uncapped Australian Matthew Short has replaced the injured Bairstow in the Punjab squad and he is one of the opening options for the team alongside Dhawan.
"We have got a coupe of options but not giving any secrets away. You have to wait for the first game. We got Matthew Short who was outstanding in the Big Bash. We got some local talent here as well.
"Having said that, it is very hard to replace someone like Jonny."
Barring Rabada, who will be available from the second game onwards, all other foreign players are available for the KKR game.
'No reason Dhawan can't make India comeback'
The 37-year-old opener, who captained India as recently as November, finds himself out of the Indian ODI setup. With Shubman Gill excelling at the top, it would be extremely tough to stage a comeback, but Bayliss feels the India veteran still can.
"He is very well respected by the young players in the team. He is a very positive influence on the team and will do a fantastic job."
On his international comeback, Bayliss added: "There is no reason he can't. Playing at the top level first thing is you need is to be in form and scoring runs.
"Hopefully from our point of view he scores a truckload of runs in the next few months and force his way back in and that would be great for us and great for India as well."
In Rabada, Curran and Arshdeep Singh, the team has pace options which can be used in any stage of the innings.
Having become the costliest buy in IPL history, it would be natural for Curran to feel the pressure of his whopping price tag.
However, Bayliss is confident about Curran delivering for Punjab.
"I know him from England days. He is very level headed. He and his brother (Tom) are not afraid to bowl the last over. They always want the ball in their hand. It won't be any different here."
'Too much franchise cricket taking place, ICC needs to handle it'
New T20 leagues popping up with each passing season has made the cricketing calendar more hectic than ever. Players are being forced to choose formats, notably Ben Stokes, and to Bayliss, it doesn't come as a surprise.
"There is a lot of franchise cricket around the world which is probably bit too much. The ICC needs to make sure they have got a handle on the amount of T20 cricket being played.
"That is where a lot of money is made for cricket to operate all round the world but it will be a shame to lose Test cricket or even ODIs to be honest.
"India, England and Australia play more than any other international team. They have had separate teams for red ball and white ball format in the last year or two. Some of the best players are not playing one format or the other," said Bayliss.
'For Bazball to work, you need naturally aggressive batters'
England have redefined the way Test cricket is played with their uber-aggressive batting approach. They have set the benchmark but Bayliss said other teams trying to play like England will only succeed if they have 'naturals' like Stokes' side possesses.
"Firstly you got to have the right players in the team, it (bazball) is a natural approach. It has to be their natural game. England have these type of players. If you don't have those players and you try to play in that fashion, it is not going to work," he added.
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