It is very common for just-retired cricketers to make careers in the media as commentators, or take to coaching by qualifying themselves or setting up coaching academies. Daren Ganga, the former West Indies batsman, is involved in both, though with a difference. Aside from his commentary commitments, Ganga has produced an interactive coaching DVD to help youngsters fast-track their development and assist coaches and parents in enhancing their knowledge of the game.
The product, launched on July 23 at the Queen's Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, is backed by the Daren Ganga Foundation, a charitable organisation started by Ganga in 2007 to help kids from less-privileged backgrounds to find their way in cricket. The DVD, titled 'The Fundamentals', is to be the first volume in a series of Ganga's coaching DVDs. It contains sections covering batting, bowling, fielding, wicketkeeping, pitch and equipment, players and fielding positions, officials. The instructional video uses animation, live action videography, in-studio demonstrations and interviews. There are tips in the form of video with current and former West Indies players, including Curtly Ambrose, Ian Bishop, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, umpire Billy Doctrove, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Anisa Mohammed from the women's team.
The idea was conceived two years ago, when Ganga was involved in a scholarship cricket program for children part of his foundation. While researching on the available coaching material, he discovered that there were several videos focusing on specific components of the game, such as captaincy and fielding. He then set about producing his own product that would "encapsulate all aspects of the game." That, and the presence of experts offering tips, is the DVD's USP.
"I recognised that I can't be there all the time but I have done a lot of networking in terms of cricketers," Ganga told ESPNcricinfo over phone from Trinidad. "I had access to a lot of information and wanted to set up a more accessible medium for these young cricketers."
There is a personal background to the project, Ganga's life story itself. Ganga himself hailed from humble origins in rural Barrackpore, in south Trinidad. The community cricket matches shaped his interest in the game, but in order to take his game forward, he rarely had access to proper coaching. He admits that a lot of his early learning came via trial and error and expert advice was hard to come by. That changed as his cricket progressed to age-group level for Trinidad, but in the process, he had to "unlearn" a lot of things he had picked up in his early years.
Ganga says the purpose of his coaching series is to help youngsters pick up the fundamentals at the formative years. "When I looked back at my early years I recognised that I had no access to the people who knew the fundamentals of the game," Ganga said. "This DVD will resolve these issues some of these kids have. I had to go through a process of unlearning at different stages. Mind you, I started playing at first-class level at 17 and international level at 19. My period of development was shorter than what most people go through. Therefore I had to spend a lot of time developing my game while I was playing at the top level and learning things I should have picked up when I was younger.
"The purpose of this DVD is for youngsters to shorten their timespan of development and to avoid the process of unlearning. I realised that if I had access to this info earlier, I think my performances would have been a lot better than what it was."
While several West Indies legends, like Viv Richards, had no formal coaching in their early years and yet succeeded at the highest level, Ganga said they were fortunate to develop their skills by playing league and county cricket in England, and also by learning off each other.
Ganga's cricket advanced when he was under Brian Lara's wing. This is where the presence of the experts in the video is vital, says Ganga, to bridge the gap. "Nowadays, access to all these players of yesteryear is very limited and more so in a rural community," Ganga said. The experts go beyond the mere technical details and also touch on the mental side of the game.
"Chanderpaul talks about keeping his eyes on the ball, his preparation, working on the short ball, defence, taking the time to train and the art of batting for long periods," Ganga said. "He was from a humble beginning and he spoke about his difficulties getting the right equipment and how his mom used to collect cloth from the community and stuff it together to make a thigh pad. Despite those challenges he was able to conquer it."
Speaking of challenges, Ganga had to deal with a few in producing the DVD. Aside from the exhaustive research, funding was the biggest hurdle. Money had to be taken from the foundation to meet production costs and pay for access to cricket venues for filming.
The foundation is seeking corporate sponsorship to offset production and distribution costs, and fund the remaining DVDs in the series. The next volume will explain the game at the advanced level. With the immense popularity of T20 cricket, particularly in the region with the success of the CPL, Ganga says the next volume will explain the various skills associated with the format, such as playing attacking shots.
The mental side of the game will also be covered in greater detail, once the viewer masters the fundamentals.
The DVD will be available in stores in the region from the end of September and online bookings can be made via the foundation's website. Ganga says he is hoping to tie up with e-commerce giants like Amazon to sell the product internationally.