Giving something back to the game. Put down plainly like that, it becomes a cliche. Every cricketer, while announcing his retirement, says that he would like to give back something to cricket, ``which has done so much for me.'' The majority of course, probably faced with the growing realities of life, go on to the routine of concentrating on their jobs and the welfare of their families. The more dynamic cricketers however, eager to stay in touch with the game, take up administrating the game or coaching. Some, in the course of time, became managers and selectors.

Coaching remains a popular way to keep in touch with the game once the playing days are over. That way, the player is really giving something back to the game. And while many of the coaching programmes are nothing but a commercial exercise, there are cricketers who are serious about this very important but highly neglected aspect of the game. Recently, four former Indian cricketers went to Australia to participate in a grade three level coaching programme. This is the highest level of coaching imparted in Australia, is quite advanced and exhaustive and is open only for Test cricketers. Back from the trip, Madan Lal, Ashok Malhotra, Roger Binny and WV Raman are much the richer from the experience. Of these, Raman would seem the odd man out for he is the only one of the quartet who does not already have an academy of his own. Now however, with the knowledge gained from the stint `Down Under', Raman is keen to put Chinese philosopher Confucius' adage into practice: `The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it.'

For starters, Raman would like to coach about 30 boys in the age group 16 to 19. ``That is the correct age in which they can be moulded. A lot of young cricketers fall by the wayside because of lack of guidance or improper coaching. As the teachers in Melbourne emphasized, one hour of bad coaching can only be compensated by 60 hours of good coaching. There should be a scientific aspect to coaching. I would like to work with the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. Let them select the boys and put them in my care. I would not like to start an academy on my own right now but I am not ruling out the possibility in the future.''

Speaking about the week long course in Melbourne, which was all lectures and presentations, Raman said that as far as facilities and equipment were concerned, India were not behind. ``Where they excelled is in the greater attention to detail and the mental aspect of the game. For example, while analysing fielding, they had a baseball pitcher who spoke and illustrated the value of the right method of throwing, and the importance of speed and accuracy. To discuss the mental aspect, they had a psychoanalyst. The approach is that `you are not coaching a cricketer, you are coaching a person.' The fact that a coach cannot afford to have an ego or be emotional was emphasized.'' Of course, Raman added there was great stress on physical fitness and he could understand why the Australian team is so strong in this vital but often neglected department. Describing the stint as ``a meaningful exercise'' Raman said the course certainly ``enhances your knowledge.'' Instead of just finding faults, they advocated a more positive attitude.

About 40 cricketers attended the course and one of them was former Australian opening batsman David Boon. Many former Australian cricketers have attended the course and former Indian fast bowler TA Sekhar, now chief coach at the MRF Pace Foundation, has admitted that he benefited immensely from his stint a few years ago.

Raman was of the view that the National Cricket Academy, to be inaugurated at Bangalore on May 1 would benefit by adopting the methods used during the grade three course in Australia. In fact he was sure that Binny, who is to take over as coach at the NCA, would impart some of the techniques he picked up at Melbourne.