When Anil Kumble took over as India's head coach, he was quick to acknowledge the influence of his predecessors, notably John Wright, and said he would continue to pick his brain. In only his first week in the job, Kumble has already re-introduced one of Wright's key concepts: a buddy system.
During the 2001 series against Australia, Wright assigned a partner to each member of the team, usually pairing a batsman with a bowler. One such relationship, VVS Laxman becoming Zaheer Khan's unofficial batting coach, carried on well beyond Wright's tenure. Kumble has instituted something similar, usually pairing a batsman with a bowler or an allrounder: Shikhar Dhawan with Mohammed Shami, for example, or Virat Kohli with Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
"It's about the senior guys communicating with the junior guys," Stuart Binny said. "Today we've paired up - each guy's paired with another guy; it's called a 'buddy programme'. So it's me and Rohit [Sharma] paired up together. Ro has played a lot of one-day cricket and Test cricket, and for me to share thoughts with him, that's the way forward, I think. If I can help Rohit by 2%, then maybe he can help me with 30% - that's what we're looking to do today. It's about helping each other through situations.
Binny said the primary reason for the system was to get the players to communicate better, and voice their thoughts without hesitation.
"It's about me and Rohit communicating about our net sessions, about areas that I bowl [for example]. In the past, many guys held back because you didn't want to say something to upset another guy, but we've been pushed in a direction to communicate what we want, especially with our games. There's a lot you can learn from someone else, even by telling him that, I think this is the way forward. Communication is the key, I think. That's what we're trying to breed."
Over the course of their Test careers so far, Binny and Rohit have often vied for the same spot in the side, depending on whether conditions have demanded an extra batsman or an allrounder. Binny said that topic hadn't come up yet. "No, not yet. I hope it doesn't come to that, but, look, the team comes first, so whatever needs to be done on that day or before the Test match, we're there to do it."
There was a slightly lopsided air to India's nets session on Saturday in Bangalore; among the first to pad up was Amit Mishra, and one of the first spinners to have a lengthy bowl was Cheteshwar Pujara, who yelped in delight when he beat Ajinkya Rahane's outside edge. Pujara had perhaps already picked up a tip or two from his buddy Mishra.
"We've divided in such a way that batsmen will help bowlers and bowlers will help batsmen, so that whenever we need to play six or seven batsmen, the batsmen can chip in with the ball, bowl seven-eight overs for us," Mishra said. "My buddy is Pujara - he bowls a bit of legspin; he can help me with my batting, and I can help with his legspin, so that whenever we might need it, he can bowl seven-eight overs for the team and help us."