April 22, 2000

Australian coaching course was an eye opener

It is summer time, which denotes the only place cricket will be at its peak, is the United Kingdom. There will be a congregation of cricketers from all over the world in various leagues spread across the length and breadth of the country. With the counties restricting the number of overseas professionals to one, it is matter of real that three Indians are representing in county cricket. The focus of the entire cricket world will be in England as it is off-season in most of the countries due to either winter or summer in other places.

The hot weather in India virtually makes it impossible to play cricket at this time of the year. The one thing that is hotter than the Indian weather currently is the betting/match fixing scandal. Revelations are flowing from all over the world and from people involved in various capacities. The ICC is slated to meet early next month to get to the bottom of this affair, which has been simmering for a while until the bubble burst recently. One can only hope that the findings are helpful in finishing off this menace once for all in order to preserve the image of this game.

This is the time a lot of coaching camps to mushroom all over the country. The holidays give young kids the opportunity to gain some skills in this game. A lot of former cricketers involve themselves in coaching and that is their way of giving something back to the game. One of the inexplicable things is that despite a lot of coaching camps going around the country, most of the cricketers in the junior ranks are not very conversant with the basics of the game. It is difficult to pinpoint as to where the problem is but the coaches would well to ensure that the trainees comprehend what are they are told.

It is a different type of mentality involved as far as coaching is concerned. As a cricketer one picks up a lot of knowledge as a result of his experience. But the key to becoming a successful coach is in the manner knowledge is imparted to the trainees. Recently I had the opportunity of attending a coaching course in Australia conducted by the ACB. Roger Binny, Madan Lal and Ashok Malhotra were the other participants. A lot of former Australian cricketers have done the course over the years. The Chappell brothers, Doug Walters, Allan Border and Dean Jones are the few who come to mind with David Boon being the latest to join the list.

The course was all about thinking, planning, evaluation etc and the coaches were sort of educated as to the way they should handle various situations. The Indian quartet straightaway realised the reason behind the success of Australian cricket. A lot of aspects were covered and several lectures were delivered which included scientific aspects like biomechanics. Greg Chappell was asked to talk about the mental aspects of the game and his approach was a revelation. Dean Jones spoke about the art of playing spinners and his ideas about the same was amazing in the sense that not many of our own players seem to have given half as much thought as Jones.

The amount of time spent in planning even at the club level in Australia is incredible. Their approach is more purpose oriented with a great sense of objectivity rather than ego and emotions unlike in India. Then, of course, the differences in the cultures have to be given some allowance. The most important phase of any young cricketer is during the time he is trying to graduate into the senior level from being an elite junior level cricketer. This is the phase that has to be handled very carefully by the coaches if the cricketer has to succeed. We have seen so many cricketers fading away after dominating totally at the junior level.

Regardless of the coaching one can get, the bottom line is the mental attitude and aptitude. A cricketer can't afford to disregard either of the qualities as one without the other is of no help. Of late the trend has been to concentrate only on the important selection matches and the concentration levels of some first class cricketers is of the on and off variety. Sachin Tendulkar is a great example for all cricketers to follow as he turned up for Mumbai in their quest for the Ranji Championship.

He played a highly determined knock in the semi-finals against Tamil Nadu as though his career and life depended on it. He knew the fortunes of the team rested with him and he did not let it down. The Tamil Nadu boys should consider themselves very unfortunate as a year of hard work was annulled by the brilliance of one man - Tendulkar. Obviously they can seek solace when they consider the number of times Tendulkar has single handedly batted out the opponents in international cricket. Tendulkar, not one easily satisfied, followed it up with another ton in the finals against Hyderabad and virtually buried any hopes the Hyderabadis may have nursed about winning the championship.