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October 29, 2012
Immediately after arriving in Mumbai on Sunday morning for the warm-up game against England, India A captain Suresh Raina called Pravin Amre, the former India Test batsman who is now a coach, and requested him to come over to the Brabourne Stadium to help him with few technical issues with his batting ahead of the crucial game.
Amre, who knows Raina since his age-group cricket days and had last worked with him before he left for Australia for the tri-series earlier this year, obliged and spent a long time with Raina during the A team's practice session on Sunday.
Amre has coached Mumbai's Ranji Trophy team for five years and has been associated with the Mumbai Indians and the Pune Warriors. However, it wasn't the first time Amre was dealing with an individual batsman. For the last three months, he has been working as a batting coach for Robin Uthappa, the Karnataka opening batsman, who has been trying to regain his spot in the India team.
So is it time for top batsmen to appoint personal batting coaches? "It's up to the players. I'm earning a lot of money in cricket and I can choose who I want to train with. If I'm not fit, I can ask doctors or physios at the NCA to come and train with me for two months to get me fit," Raina said on Monday.
"With so many formats to switch between, it sometimes gets difficult and you need somebody to observe you and guide you all the time. Look at sports like tennis and shooting, the coach always travels with the sportsman. So when you are making a lot of money, why shouldn't you hire a specialist who can help you out? It's something that I can look at in the future. Cricket is all about sharing one's knowledge and it's more about skills than technique, if a coach can tell you about your skills and improve them, it will help you play different formats."
Raina also spelt out his bond with Amre, who has been coaching his employer Air India's team for almost a decade now. "When I was 14 or 15, I played a lot of matches at the Under-19 level for Air India and have known Pravin sir since then. He knows my batting well," Raina said. "When you're not in the team, you need somebody to work on your game all the time. Pravin told me I've been batting well, but the time has come to change my game now. The button has to be pressed. That's somewhere England have done well. Graham Gooch has been a big addition to the side. Look at how he changed Alastair Cook's game and performances.
"I asked him [Amre] about [Graeme] Swann. He troubled me a lot in England and got me out four or five times. He asked me to keep my shoulder over the ball and my eyes in line with the ball."
While a player may feel the need of closer assessment from a personal coach, Amre feels it's more challenging for a coach to work on an individual basis.
"When I used to work for a team like Mumbai, I knew I had six batsmen to rely on. It didn't matter who scored runs. What mattered the most was the team's performance," Amre told ESPNcricinfo. "Here, there is just one batsman who I am working on and I would be assessed only based on what he does. So it's imperative that the player-coach partnerships works for the better. When it comes to Suresh, we share a personal bond and there's no contract. Whenever he asks me to work on his batting, I cannot say no."
It remains to be seen if Raina makes the most of his time spent with Amre over the next three days.
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