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R Ashwin has a great cricketing brain and he is very competitive, says Kings XI Punjab fielding coach Craig McMillan | Cricket News


Former New Zealand all-rounder Craig McMillan played 260 international matches, finishing his international career with over 8000 runs and 77 wickets. McMillan is currently in India, as the fielding coach of the Kings XI Punjab IPL team. He spoke to TimesofIndia.com ahead of their match against Rajasthan Royals in Mohali about Punjab’s run so far in IPL 2019, their fielding standards, R Ashwin as captain, his message for Kings XI Punjab fans and more.

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Excerpts…

Are you happy overall with the fielding standards of the Kings XI Punjab team?

Yes. It’s very good. We weren’t at our best the other night (vs RCB) which was disappointing. But as an overall standard we have been excellent, with maybe just one or two catches put down in (the first) 8 games. So the catching standard has been very high which is very important in this competition, because generally the best fielding sides are going to be at the top of the table. We know we still have some work to do in that area, but by and large I have been really happy with the effort and the work the guys have been putting in.

You yourself were an effective all-rounder in your playing days. How important a role does the all-rounder play across formats?

The all-rounder plays an important part not only in T20 cricket but also in One Day and Test cricket as well because it offers you balance to the side. You look at a lot of the sides in the IPL, they are very reliant on the all-rounders in their side. Guys who can bat and also bowl a few overs or those guys who can bowl and then can whack it at the end, so it just gives you some balance to your playing XI. So the all-rounder is definitely an important part of most sides.

We all know what Chris Gayle is capable of with the bat, but when it comes to fielding, which is Chris’ favourite fielding position?

Chris has done a pretty good job to be fair. He knows he is at the end of his career now, so he is not as quick and nimble as he was in his earlier years, so we need to look after him. I think he is playing beautifully and doing a great job for us with the bat, but the other night he dived and saved a couple and he has a nice safe pair of hands when is in the slips as well, so we are more than happy with what Chris is doing in the field. And he is certainly doing a great job with the bat at the top of the order for us.

You had said earlier that the Punjab team is looking at turning their home ground Mohali into a fortress. What goes into turning one’s home ground into a fortress in a tournament like the IPL?

Every team has an advantage playing at home because you know the dimensions of the ground, you know how the pitch plays, so you have an advantage over the opposition when you play at home. I think you will find that the most successful teams, probably (like) CSK come to mind straightaway, in terms of how hard they are to beat at home. I think we have played well in Mohali so far this IPL. We were obviously disappointed with the result the other night (vs RCB). It’s a ground we know well. It’s a ground we like playing on, the conditions are good. It’s one of the bigger grounds in India so you have to adapt and change your game a little more than what you have to do in the other grounds.

If you had to pick the 4 strongest teams of IPL 2019 going by the cricket that you have seen so far, which would those teams be?

I am not going to pick any teams. It’s a very tough competition. There are no easy games. Realistically all eight teams are good enough to qualify for the knock-outs. Of course RCB has struggled, but as we saw the other night when they played us they have some quality players in their side so I wouldn’t like to pick any team. Obviously CSK at the moment are standing out, they are at the top of the table for a reason, but I think the rest of the competition is up for grabs.

What is R Ashwin like as captain behind the scenes?

He is very good. He is very thorough. He has a great cricketing brain. He has obviously played a lot of cricket for India and a lot of cricket worldwide so he understands the game well. He reads the game well, he understands his players and he is very competitive and I guess that is what has made him such a great cricketer for a long long time. We are very lucky to have him as our leader in our side and he has been doing a great job.

Punjab have never won the IPL title. This time the team has managed to put up strong performances in some matches. What would your message be for the Punjab fans at this stage of the tournament?

Stay with us, support us. Keep coming to watch us play. We have got an exciting young group of players and we want to create some Punjabi history. You are right, we haven’t won the IPL but I certainly believe that with the depth in the squad we have, we have players that are capable of doing something very special. Hopefully that will be this season, but as I said it is very challenging because the IPL is the most competitive T20 competition in the world so you have to be at your best day in and day out. And if you are a little bit off you are going to get beaten by the other side, so we need to bounce back over the next couple of games and everyone’s looking forward to that.



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