Sher di Dahaad: We want to play fearless cricket and find the next superstars

KXIP captain Ravichandran Ashwin looks to the future with Sadda Punjab, the youth -- and his views on Game of Thrones (because we have to unwind too).

By Ravichandran Ashwin

Over the last decade or so, there hasn’t been a clear DNA about how we are going to go about this franchise bit, because I feel a culture built around the team is very important for us to build a good future. You don’t pick a team and just get up and play the game and win a tournament, it doesn’t happen overnight. We need to buy into certain principles, build a good team culture and have strong goals and philosophies around the team to produce a united and cohesive franchise. That’s one of the reasons behind structuring this column. Let the fans have a sneak-peek into what I’m thinking and what the process is going to be.

It’s also a medium for us to interact with the fans; and try to gauge their sentiments. It’s about understanding their emotions and also trying to buy into the Punjabi culture and build a fan base around it.

Young sheras to drive it forward

If you look at any franchise-based sport, it’s been built around how they form a process and have a team for the future; and have individuals who are going to carry the bandwagon forward. Those are the sort of affinities the new players will bring in, they have got something to look forward to and have themselves to express freely and in an environment that is entirely going to be a learning curve for them, they will start buying into the franchise philosophy and also start giving to the team. It’s basically a give and take. We didn’t want to think today or tomorrow alone, but also for the future. If you take teams like CSK or Mumbai Indians, who have been successful franchises in the IPL, they have had a certain DNA and retained players over the years to produce consistent results over a 10-year span or a 5-year span. That’s the thinking behind getting so many young players.

I am someone who has been very strategically rooted and very analytical in terms of what I do on the field. Off the field is also going to be important since it is a young team, I’ll try to pass on as much knowledge as possible. It is also going to about pressure handling, taking the pressure off these youngsters to allow them to express themselves. That’s one of the reasons we built such a strong support staff who can really be contributing towards this facet on each one’s game.

I know most of these cricketers and I also follow most of the cricket that happens in India and around the world like a hawk, not because I want to do it for this purpose, but I just love cricket so much that I do it. It is more a very inclusive decision rather than just being my own decision. None of the good teams operate if it’s a one-man show, so we got together - myself, Mike (Hesson) and the CEO (Satish Menon) and also some of the people doing our talent hunt in Ashish Tulli and our new analyst Prasanna. We discussed a certain amount of cricketers, prepared a final wish list and we sort of got most of the players we wanted.

Sadda Punjab

So keeping in with the DNA, we have evolved our identity a bit with Sadda Punjab. For me, it means a cricket culture that is not going to be shaken around; and be completely engrained with stability. A team that will be given a lot of stability and a lot of importance to the processes. That is Sadda Punjab.

For me, Punjab is more of an adopted soil sort of a feeling because it is a massive responsibility that people have entrusted in me along with the franchise. I quite enjoyed the role last year and personally felt I contributed to a certain extent to changing around how the team looks at itself going into the competition, and that’s where I will take off again. Continuously, I keep getting messages on Instagram saying how much they enjoyed my stint as a leader in Punjab, and obviously there are a few suggestions that keep coming on about how we should go about the job, but most of the sentiments I got was they are very excited to have this new team. For me, it is all about exciting the fan emotions and showing them that we are out there to play some fearless cricket; and on the way try and throw a few cricketers in the market and make sure they go on to play at the next level.

Game of Thrones: How Ash sees it
I am big of Game of Thrones, of course. I think the way the White Walkers burnt the wall last season was pretty kick-ass! And that is sort of how we played our cricket last year as well. Like the White Walkers, we just kept walking, walking and burnt down the wall in a few games but couldn’t really get through to Kings Landing. Hopefully, we will get there...

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