Rajasthan's prescription for motivation
In 2008, Shane Warne authored and distributed an innovative document that played a crucial role in Rajasthan Royals winning the inaugural IPL. Titled What is my role, it described Warne as 'the leader of the pack', Shane Watson as 'the enforcer', Yusuf Pathan as 'the statement maker', assigning players with well-defined roles. These were formulated after Warne, together with Rajasthan's director of coaching, Darren Berry, had studied the players and spoken with them individually. The concept helped players feel more confident about themselves, pushing them to greater heights.
But Rajasthan failed to repeat the fairytale in the second year, and started their campaign in 2010 with a four-run defeat against Mumbai. Though Yusuf turned it into a tight game after his 37-ball century, Rajasthan were uninspiring. So was Warne, making a couple of questionable calls as captain.
But on the eve of their first match at their new base in Ahmedabad, Warne and his think-tank have decided to fall back on their original mantra of energising the squad with heavy doses of motivation.
There is no document doing the rounds this time. But Jeremy Snape, the team's performance director, who also doubles up as the psychologist, has added a new touch to the dressing room's ambience, fixing player name-plates in blue on the lockers, leading with Warne's at the far left-hand corner, and the four walls have been splashed with huge posters of the memorable moments during the team's triumphant 2008 season.
"We spoke about the high-performance environment. We have taken inspiration from some of the American sports and [English] Premiership football and provided motivational backdrop in the dressing room, which was unveiled for the first home game," Snape said.
"Best Team Culture" has been painted in bold lettering on the front wall, and you can't miss it upon stepping inside the locker room. To the left-hand side, across Warne's face starts a line "First for" and ends with "New Ideas" near the entrance on the same side. Snape, who is also the psychologist with the South African team, said the purpose of the idea is to create a strong bond in the squad and enrich the legacy of the team.
"One of the things that we do believe we've got is one of the strongest team cultures in the IPL," Snape said. He cited the example of Paras Dogra, who was involved in the 107-run partnership with Yusuf, and was Rajasthan's next best batsman. "Someone like Paras Dogra, who we left out of the squad last year, has been in our scouting system for a while. He said to us last year 'I am going to prove to you I'm good enough to be in the Royals team'. Yesterday he proved to us all that he is good enough to be in the Royals team."
In his role as performance director, Snape said he would support Warne on the coaching front while introducing "new ideas" to inspire players. "We have backed a group of players and it is up to them now to take the responsibility and provide the results."
Unlike the other franchises, Rajasthan didn't spend big money during the player auction in January, relying more on their original bench strength. Also hurting Rajasthan is the absence of Shane Watson, who is busy playing New Zealand, and will be available only from April. To offset the disadvantages, Snape said it was important for each player to think as a leader and set an example for the rest.
"We are actually looking for a competitive edge in different areas; maybe we don't have the big budget or the big names of some of the teams. But what we do have is a very, very strong team culture, some great leadership from Shane Warne, who has brought in fresh ideas."
On his part, Warne handed out new caps with individual numbers to the players who, Snape said, felt really proud. "It was a proud moment when Shane gave the guys the new caps. Three years ago there was no history to the Rajasthan Royals so we are actually creating history as we go, and every player now knows he's got a number and succession in that history and we feel motivated now to make that a special legacy."