In a chat with Moneycontrol, Jennings looks back at his stint with RCB, his relationship with Virat Kohli, and other things during his IPL sojourn. The South African will be rooting for RCB, a team he coached for five years. However, he is also hoping Kings XI Punjab do well, with good reason. Read on to find out why.
Very few coaches have managed to complete five years with a team in the Indian Premier League. Stephen Fleming, the CSK coach, is by far the most successful, with three IPL trophies. Tom Moody, meanwhile, has spent eight years with two teams, winning one IPL trophy (SRH) in that time. Even the great Jacques Kallis couldn’t survive beyond three years without a title win under his belt.
It is therefore a creditable achievement for an overseas coach to be part of a high-profile team such as Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for half a decade. That, too, without a trophy to show. However, sometimes numbers don’t tell the entire story and that perhaps applies to Ray Jennings’ tenure as RCB Head Coach for five seasons, from 2009-2013.
The former South African national coach took charge after the debacle of the 2008 season, when RCB finished seventh among eight teams. In his very first season, IPL 2009, RCB turned things around to become runners-up. The team was knocked out at the playoffs stage in IPL 2010 and came close to winning the trophy again in IPL 2011 (runners-up, again).
In his last two seasons, RCB could not make it to the playoffs as they finished fifth on the points table and lost out on a spot by a slender margin.
Regardless of his winless run in the IPL, it can be argued that Jennings’ tenure at RCB was the best for a head coach of that team.
Those were the days
“It was a fantastic experience. I was very satisfied. Dealing with some of the best international players along with Indian players was a great experience,” recalls Jennings, in a chat with this writer over the telephone.
In total, during his time with the franchise, Jennings was part of 41 wins in 74 matches and the team’s winning percentage of 55.40 makes him one of the best coaches in IPL history. So, how does the former RCB coach look back at his stint? Glass half empty or half-full?
“My results were good even if we didn’t manage to win the trophy. In the IPL, you need a boss who backs you all the way — from the selection process at the auction table to the overall functioning of the team, since a captain has a lot on his plate in an IPL team,” said Jennings.
Relationship with Virat Kohli
Jennings was also “lucky” to watch from close quarters as Virat Kohli emerged from being an Under-19 talent to a giant of world cricket. “He was very special, no doubt about that. He was barely 20 and I had predicted that he would captain India one day. Today, I see him as somebody who has changed the culture of Indian cricket with his aggressive, in-your-face approach,” said the 66-year-old Jennings.
At the same time, the former RCB coach does not hesitate to state that in the past, Kohli’s methods as captain didn’t impress him much. According to Jennings, Kohli sometimes backed the wrong players. And with certain players’ roles in some specific conditions and situations, both had different ideas. However, the former coach has moved on and wishes not only Kohli but also all his former wards the best in this IPL.
Pressed to pick a favourite to win this IPL, Jennings doesn’t even wait for this writer to finish his sentence. “Of course, my favourite team will always be RCB. But I will also be backing Kings XI Punjab, because players like (KL) Rahul, Mayank (Agarwal), (Chris) Gayle, and the coach (Anil) Kumble were part of my RCB team. I want to see good cricket. If RCB plays to their potential they can win easily. In T20, anything can happen. The best side is not necessarily the best team of the tournament!”