Kolkata Knight Riders announced the launch of KKR Academy, the brainchild of captain Dinesh Karthik and team CEO Venky Mysore, on Wednesday. The franchise aims to strengthen their connect with their local Indian players and address different aspects of their games during the three-month off-season after the IPL.
Still an active cricketer himself with over a decade of first-class experience, Abhishek Nayar, who worked with the team as consultant during the season, has been appointed head coach of the academy. He will be assisted by Omkar Salvi, who until recently was bowling coach of Mumbai in domestic cricket. AR Srikkanth, the franchise's long-standing video analyst who also scouts for talent during the off-season, will also lend his expertise.
"Post the IPL season, I had a meeting with Venky Sir to discuss the ways forward, and he was very keen on starting something where we can help the cricketers throughout [the year]," Nayar told the franchise's official website. "A lot of times, what happens is that we come into the IPL and pick players based on their talent.
"Whether or not they do well depends on their own preparations, so we thought as to what we can do to affect that - to find a change where we can add a little more value to a cricketer's career and not just come and practice, do well in the IPL, and go away."
The franchise aims to ensure the best training facilities to players across different parts of the country. A two-week bootcamp in Bengaluru is the first of many they hope to implement going forward, with the aim of allowing players exposure to different surfaces, training facilities and conditions across India. Presently, batsmen Rinku Singh, Apoorv Wankhade, Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill are in attendance. Five other players are expected to join the camp shortly.
Gill, who was picked on the basis of his performances at the Under-19 World Cup, is fresh off a successful maiden India A stint in England, where he made three half-centuries in the side's run to the one-day tri-series title. Wankhade was part of Vidarbha's Ranji Trophy winning team but didn't get a game for KKR this season. Rinku played sporadically, while Rana was one of their batting mainstays.
"The idea was to have a journey with them wherein you're taking care of them, understanding them, their problems, and the small difficulties they face through a season, not only in the IPL, but in the Ranji trophy or in (domestic) T20s, basically everything that comprises the overall growth of a cricketer," Nayar said.
With India's domestic season set to kick off in September, the camp serves to also bring players back into match mode. "I'm pretty confident it will (help the players in the upcoming season)," he said. "Like I said, it's not about this camp, it's (what we do) through the season. It's not a one-day wonder kind of a thing. It's something we're going to do over and over and over again. So in this camp, we're trying to assess the players. We're in talks with them, we are trying to understand what they require, understand what's stopping them from being the best that they can be.
"I have spent a lot of time with these players, but we have a new team (of support staff) who are going to work with us through the season. "It's a long process, but i think in the end, it will turn out to be something really beautiful. We've started off on a journey and I'm pretty sure that if you ask the cricketers by the end of this camp, they will feel that there is a definite improvement in what they were doing prior to coming into this camp.