It’s tough to say with confidence that Sanjay Bangar would have been an exceptional Twenty20 cricketer.

While he offered a considerable threat with both bat and ball, none of the current-day audacity found expression in his play. Whatever he lacked in talent, he more than made up for it through stodgy, unyielding resolve.

The characteristic low-lying persona has seemingly informed his coaching philosophy. While Kings XI Punjab set the world alight through successful heists and bewildering daredevilry, Bangar chose to hold himself back at the fringes of publicity. Yet, it didn’t take long for most to realise that the former all-rounder was the driving force behind KXIP’s success.

Bangar’s season-long tenure with franchise has been characterised by freedom. Given a carte blanche when he went about setting up the team, the 41-year-old has ensured a similar level of liberty is enjoyed by his players. A cricketer like Maxwell posed a demonstrably tough challenge for the coach, considering the Australian’s risky ways.

But Bangar never attempted to modify his batting style. “Maxwell sometimes confuses me in the nets. When he flops, it can look very bad. But we need to accept that. He’s a fearless cricketer and I gave him full freedom.”

It’s refreshing to note that Bangar’s style of cricket never created any obstacle for him as a coach. Indeed, he seems to have kept pace with the evolution of cricket and appreciates the innovations in the sport.

“The quality of cricket is better than before. The kind of shots, skills and innovation employed by today’s players are impressive. Even the fielding is very sharp. Look at the catches taken by Indian fielders.”

While KXIP has attracted a lot of attention for its phalanx of foreign T20 experts, Indians like Akshar Patel, Manan Vohra et al have brought balance to the side. Bangar’s stint as a consultant at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) camps introduced him to a bunch of talented domestic cricketers. The experience helped him to trust his judgment and buy a few of those during the auction.

Cool minded

Bangar, though, feels that skipper George Bailey played the crucial role in the development of the youngsters. “He regularly speaks to the uncapped players and gives them the confidence to do well. His record as a captain has been very nice. I gel very well with him as we’re both cool-minded. He was a natural choice to be our captain,” claims Bangar.

Another captaincy contender, Virender Sehwag, was also the coach’s former teammate in the national side. Bangar reveals that he had to devise a different approach for dealing with a friend.

“Although it’s a fast-paced game, friendship helps. But I realised I needed to forget my past before I assumed my responsibility as a coach. I had to start afresh with everyone.”

Considering the disappointment of previous seasons, a fresh beginning was certainly the required antidote for KXIP. After a season of “competitive, well-balanced cricket”, Bangar aims to take advantage of the acquired confidence by guiding his side to greater heights.