Chandigarh: With young domestic cricketers helping them remain in hunt for the Indian Premier League title, Kings XI Punjab co-owner and noted industrialist Ness Wadia feels that for the franchise, IPL is about discovering unknown talents.
"I think more than anything, IPL for us is discovering new stars. Like Paul Valthaty, our current bowling find Parvinder Awana, who has been among the wickets and Mandeep Singh, who has given strength to our batting, the IPL has been pretty good in terms of discovering young players," said Wadia.
With the IPL T20 tournament entering its fifth season, Wadia was asked how the journey has been for the franchise over the years.
"It (the journey so far) has been a good one. We had a good couple of years initially. The last two years were not very good. I think this year should be better, overall."
"I think the way forward definitely is to push more young players. You will see us build over in the next year or two more than we did because of the litigation and other issues we`ve had a lot of time focused on that," Wadia said.
Wadia said among the local players, opener Mandeep and medium-pacer Awana hold plenty of promise.
"Mandeep and Awana are good cricketers. You know, it`s about discovering the stars and allowing them to have the opportunity at least. What you can do is give some of them opportunity, nothing else," he said.
The Punjab franchise, also co-owned by Bollywood actress Preity Zinta, last night defeated defending champions Chennai Super Kings in their own backyard, thus keeping themselves in the hunt as the tournament reached its mid-way stage.
KXIP has so far managed to reach the semi-final stage only once and they will be keen to win their first IPL title.
While most of the other teams playing in the IPL have big names to boast of from among the current players like Mahendra Singh Dhoni (CSK), Virender Sehwag (Delhi Daredevils), Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore), Gautam Gambhir (Kolkata Knight Riders) and so on, Wadia disagreed that star-studded line-up was missing in their camp.
"We included (English pacer) Stuart Broad. He would have been a great asset on the bouncy Mohali tracks. Unfortunately, he`s injured, so it`s an issue. In season one, we had Brett Lee who played a few games and the next year he was injured and in the third we saw him come back. We really had bad luck as far as our pace bowlers are concerned. Luckily for us, Ryan Harris is coming in first week of May.
"Who you mean by big stars not sticking with us. We decide who should be with us. We`ve got (former Aussie player Adam) Gilchrist, David Hussey, Shaun Marsh...They are all star players," he said.
Wadia also denied suggestions that the Twenty20 tournament`s popularity has declined, and said the response to this year`s edition has been good so far.
"I don`t think IPL is diminishing, more people are watching even though the response may not be of that scale as witnessed in the opening season. Moreover, our cricket has been through a bad patch, India has not been winning (international matches)...But I see IPL growing from strength to strength."
From the franchise point of view, he said more and more fans are getting involved.
"We have a growing fan base. It`s entertainment, they can have fun, they can have a night out, they can do something other than sitting at home looking at each other`s faces and watching some soap opera move, which may sometimes depress. Sports is a great cultural booster, it`s a great freshener, it doesn`t bring any bad feeling or bad thought. It adds a lot to the Indian consumer," he said.