'The bottom line is hard work'
In an effort to arrest the recent reverses in fortunes, Mumbai cricket has turned to a man who played just one Ranji game for them and also, interestingly, never applied for the job. Pravin Amre, a dogged and tenacious batsman in his days, is the new man in charge. Cricinfo met up with him for a chat.
Over the last two seasons, Mumbai has been faltering in the semi-final stages. You agree that there has been a decline?
I am sure most other teams will be happy to have reached the semi-finals but for Mumbai it was considered a failure. But I agree the recent history has not been great. But that is past and I was not involved then. That's why the off season - the next couple of months before the championship starts - is very crucial. As a cricketer, I always maintained that let my performance speak for itself and as a coach also, I don't want to make a big statements. Let us work together for two to three months as this preparation time is the key. The bottom line is hard work, be it for a coach or a player.
What is your philosophy of coaching?
I ask myself, why I have taken the job. Is it for the money? No. I have not, still, discussed my remuneration. I didn't apply for the job. It was all done by the former Mumbai cricketers, people I respect. I consider it as a great honour, to be respected by your peers. I have been associated with first-class cricket for 20 years now and have played for various states, so passing on that experience to the young lot will be my focus. To see in their eyes that your inputs have helped them become good performers is the greatest reward for a coach. See ... the basic tasks of a coach like maintaining basic discipline, goal setting, that is always there but to pass on the tips from one's playing experience, especially, to the youngsters, is critical.
What will be your way of interacting with the players?
It is very important for the coach and the players to gel together. Surely, no-one should be taking me for granted but I will be a friend and guide to them. They should have no fear in approaching me for anything and they should be free to discuss whatever issues they have. I was born and brought up in Mumbai. So I know the player psychology well, what difficulties they go through. I have also personally gone through that, plus I have played at the highest level and these two factors will be my big advantage.
The experience of having played cricket at the highest level must be surely be an advantage?
It definitely helps as you can demonstrate from your own experience what is going wrong, what to do ... But I am not taking for granted that I have played Test cricket. I have passed all the coaching exams: I cleared Level 2 while playing in South African domestic in 1999. When I was alone there, I thought I will use the time to enrich myself. I am a student of the game, I thought let me have this coaching knowledge. I had already cleared the umpiring exams. The whole preparation, studying was a tremendous experience, the passion was definitely there. Say a player is going through a bad phase as a cricketer, as a coach I need to explain and point out why it's happening. Why you are not in form and, also, why you are in form. The questioning of why is very, very important; to understand the underlying process behind performance is vital. Sometimes I wish I knew all this in my playing days but I will make sure all this is passed on to the current lot of players.
There is an apprehension that the youngsters in the Mumbai squad are not getting enough chances to prove themselves as there are so many seniors around ...
You cannot buy experience at a supermarket. We are talking about first-class cricket; we can't afford to be experimental and give away free caps. They have to earn them. If a youngster fits in there, then he will definitely be picked. Maybe the youngsters have to be patient as well and bide their time. I am going with an open mind. There will be 20-25 probables, my screening will be there, and I will see who is improving and who fits where. The bench strength is important. Look ... the championship doesn't come only with 14 players; you need to have a strong back-up also.
I have been associated with first-class cricket for 20 years ... passing on that experience to the young lot will be my focus
But didn't you leave for greener pastures after playing just one game for Mumbai?
My time was totally different. There was lots and lots of competition. [Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Vishwanath, who featured in the opposition side in Amre's debut game, were still playing first-class cricket.] And more importantly, it was about the financial aspect. It was important for me to get a secure job. I got a job in Railways as a sports superintendent, and I took it. Nobody was sure what's going to happen to you in cricket. I consulted my coach, Achrekar, who agreed with my move.
Can you name some youngsters who caught your attention during your tenure as the chairman of the Mumbai junior selection committee?
Rohit Sharma, Omkar Gurav, the wicketkeeper, Sushant Marathe, Prashant Naik to name a few.
What about the seniors like Vinod Kambli, Amol Mazumdar, Ajit Agarkar and others? Do you think the relationship will be smooth?
We played together, I know them personally, and they know me. So that will be a big advantage. I don't know about their availability, how many matches they will be there. We have to sit down, chalk out the schedule, and see how many games they are going to play. I am sure they will love to serve Bombay.
Considering that Mumbai had problems in bowling out the opposition in the last season, will you be asking for a bowling coach?
In fact we already had a discussion about it. Soon we will have a bowling consultant. We are waiting for the senior members, who are away playing in England, to come. We want to seek their opinion and arrive at a mutual consensus. But certainly, he will be someone the players will respect. He will be a former Mumbai fast bowler, one who knows what is happening at the grassroots.
Sriram Veera is editorial assistant of Cricinfo