Where are In­dia’s cricket coaches?

De­spite be­ing the sport’s cen­tre of power, In­dia’s cricket coaches find op­por­tu­ni­ties hard to come by at the high­est level

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Sport - Somshu­vra Laha somshu­[email protected] n

NEWDELHI:In­dia is cricket’s undis­puted cen­tre of power. The Test team has been No. 1 for two years in a row. Other na­tions work over­time to ac­com­mo­date a se­ries with In­dia to boost their fi­nances. It is home to the big­gest and the richest T20 fran­chise league in the world, and the BCCI’s cen­trally con­tracted play­ers com­mand the high­est salaries in the world.

This is cricket coun­try— ex­cept when it comes to coaches.

Look no fur­ther than the In­dian Premier League (IPL), where all eight teams are headed by for­eign­ers: three South Africans, two Aus­tralians, two New Zealan­ders and one Sri Lankan. Even among the sup­port staff, there is only a hand­ful of In­di­ans.

In other leagues, in other na­tions, the story is dif­fer­ent. Aus­tralia’s Big Bash League has six out of eight teams coached by Aus­tralians, the other two helmed by New Zealan­ders. Of the 18 coun­ties in Eng­land’s T20 Blast, 13 are headed by Eng­lish coaches, three have Aus­tralians and there is one each from South Africa and New Zealand.

When it comes to na­tional teams, bar­ring In­dia coach Ravi Shas­tri, only Lalc­hand Ra­jput heads the coach­ing staff of Zim­babwe who failed to qual­ify for this World Cup.

Though there are a few coaches from In­dia who have found op­por­tu­ni­ties with in­ter­na­tional teams—Su­nil Joshi is the spin coach of Bangladesh—it is not a patch on the vo­lu­mi­nous num­ber of coaches sent out by Aus­tralia, South Africa, New Zealand and Eng­land.

Ac­cord­ing to for­mer In­dia pacer Venkatesh Prasad, most of these crick­et­ing na­tions have a strong cul­ture of en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal coaches, pro­vid­ing a struc­tured plat­form for them to rise through. “None of the In­dian coaches will fig­ure in county or Big Bash League,” Prasad, who has had coach­ing stints with mul­ti­ple IPL teams, says.

WHO COACHES THE COACHES?

What prevents In­dian coaches from bag­ging top ap­point­ments? Is it tech­ni­cal knowhow or the will to move out of their com­fort zones?

Some coaches, by their own ad­mis­sion, never gave much thought to go­ing be­yond the realm of Ranji Tro­phy. Like Debu Mi­tra, a sea­soned pro­fes­sional who coached Saurash­tra for 10 years and un­der whom Chetesh­war Pu­jara and Ravin­dra Jadeja made their mark. “I have been go­ing to Eng­land ev­ery year since 1987 but apart from a few stints here and there, I never thought of do­ing any­thing else,” said Mi­tra.

But for the ma­jor­ity, Prasad says bluntly, it’s a lack of coach­ing skills that keep them tied down.

“I’m sorry to say, a lot of them are not com­pe­tent enough. They feel since they have played the game, they can coach,” Prasad says. “That is not how it works. They are not in tune with mod­ern-day coach­ing (which needs) a good un­der­stand­ing of biome­chan­i­cal and tech­ni­cal is­sues.

“More than any­thing, I think the coaches need to ad­dress the men­tal as­pect of the game. Where you score over the other player is in the mind. You need to un­der­stand the player. You have to be a good man man­ager. A so­lu­tion for one player may not be the so­lu­tion for an­other guy. Not many un­der­stand that.”

Prasad re­calls an in­ci­dent from his play­ing days in the 1990s to make his point.

“A leg­end in fast bowl­ing told me to bowl the way he bowled,” he says. “That is not how it works. The coach needs to un­der­stand my phys­i­cal as­pect, my men­tal as­pect, my tech­ni­cal as­pect and coach me, not coach ev­ery­one the same way.”

IS THERE A BIAS?

You don’t have to be a good player to be a com­pe­tent coach, and Umesh Pat­wal, Nepal’s bat­ting coach, is an ex­am­ple. A for­mer Mum­bai A divi­sion player, Pat­wal was a jour­ney­man crick­eter who took his game to UAE and Eng­land be­fore turn­ing to coach­ing.

Pat­wal had failed to pass the Level 3 course—the high­est qual­i­fi­ca­tion for a cricket coach—at the Na­tional Cricket Academy in Bengaluru but cleared the Aus­tralian board’s coach­ing cer­tifi­cate in Dubai in 2011. He then joined Kochi Tuskers Ker­ala as a sec­ond as­sis­tant-coach un­der San­jay Ban­gar, who is now In­dia’s bat­ting coach. Pat­wal was also the academy head of the Vi­darbha un­der-16s. “Around seven play­ers from that batch have made it to the In­dia un­der-19 squad,” he says.

But, Pat­wal says, recog­ni­tion for this work is not easy to come by. Pat­wal was the bat­ting coach for Afghanista­n dur­ing the Asia Cup in 2018, where the cricket rook­ies per­formed ad­mirably with the bat.

“None of the com­men­ta­tors, many of them In­dian, men­tioned my name,” Pat­wal says. “There is this poor mindset of the IPL own­ers who think In­dian coaches are not good enough. But if you see, Paras Mham­brey and Robin Singh are with Mum­bai In­di­ans for a long time. Ban­gar did very well too.”

Prasada­greeswith­Pat­walthat there is a bias against In­dian coaches. “In IPL, we only have foreign (head) coaches. They just come for two months and have fun,” says Prasad. “If the fran­chise does well, it’s okay and if they don’t, they say ‘we have done our job, we have been pro­fes­sional’ and leave.”

VVS Lax­man, the Sun­ris­ers Hy­der­abad men­tor, is not con­vinced.

“Ashish Nehra is with RCB, Sri­ram is with KXIP, Robin and Za­heer are with Mum­bai. It’s not that In­dian coaches are not part of any fran­chise. It’s all about get­ting the best peo­ple, and con­ti­nu­ity is very im­por­tant in IPL,” he says. “Fa­mil­iar­ity is im­por­tant. If a coach gets used to a fran­chise and is giv­ing re­sults, usu­ally the fran­chise doesn’t look to make changes.

It’s also about own­ers be­ing com­fort­able with a cer­tain coach­ing style. As long as a coach un­der­stands the char­ac­ter of a team and builds it, it doesn’t mat­ter whether he is In­dian or for­eigner.”

THE RIGHT GROOM­ING

In the mod­ern game, coach­ing is a highly spe­cialised pro­fes­sion, and Prasad, who is from the first batch of Level 3 grad­u­ates from the NCA, feels that coaches need to com­mit to ex­pand­ing their knowl­edge.

“There was a lot of em­pha­sis on biome­chan­ics and the­o­ret­i­cal as­pect of the game,” Prasad says, de­scrib­ing his NCA days. “The fac­ulty was out­stand­ing with none other than Frank Tyson in it. But I thought I need an­other Level 3 abroad. That’s when I went to Shrop­shire in Eng­land. That’s where few of Eng­land’s Olympic teams come and prac­tice. This stint was all about prac­ti­cal as­pects and video anal­y­sis, which we didn’t do in In­dia then.”

Exchange pro­grammes can be an­other way of en­cour­ag­ing do­mes­tic coaches,” Prasad says.

“Seven (In­dian) crick­eters are play­ing county this year. You need to have a sim­i­lar sort of un­der­stand­ing where you iden­tify the 10-15 top coaches in In­dia and you send them to Eng­land dur­ing the off-sea­son. Let them work at a county un­der a men­tor.”

GETTY

Ravi Shas­tri (right) will be the only In­dian coach in charge at the up­com­ing World Cup.

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