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Bad days 'a great coaching opportunity' for Sridhar

Source: PTI
December 10, 2021 22:08 IST
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'I looked at bad days as great coaching opportunity.'

'If you are able to give the player what he wants, they don't mind whether you have played 0 Tests or 100 Tests.'

R Sridhar reflects on his seven-year stint as India's fielding coach and equation with Ravi Shastri.

R Sridhar, left, is instrumental in raising India's standards on the field

IMAGE: R Sridhar, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri share a light moment during a Team India training session. Photograph: R Sridhar

Former India fielding coach R Sridhar termed his seven-year tenure as the "best phase of his life" and was grateful for the opportunities that came his way.

He was an integral part of Team India's coaching set-up, headed by Ravi Shastri, and played a big role in the team's remarkably improved standards on the field.

In an exclusive interview, he answered questions about failures, different eras of fielding and what made the support staff click.

Excerpts:

India had some bad days... 36 all out at Adelaide, 78 at Leeds. How did you handle them?

It was a wonderful opportunity to learn. To me, as a coach, a bad day is a great coaching opportunity. Good days are not great coaching opportunities, but bad days are.

 

When I say coaching opportunity, it's about understanding the person, striking a nice relationship with the players, opportunity to coach them technically and mentally if required.

You get to know about player and team. Basically, how you are on your bad day says a lot about how you're as a team. This team was outstanding in terms of resilience.

Recently, (former India coach) Greg Chappell called up and asked Ravibhai, "How the hell do you bounce back after so many losses? That's a benchmark for this team... that every bad day was harnessed like a gold mine.

Did you ever have difference in opinion with Ravi Shastri and Bharat Arun?

I believe difference of opinion is a must among coaches to arrive at the best conclusion. We always had difference of opinion, whether it was me, Ravibhai, Bharat Sir, or Sanjay (Bangar) earlier, and then Vikram (Rathour). But all of us were working towards the same goal.

There is a subtle difference. We wanted the same thing for the team.

Two people would agree to a solution and one would turn the idea down. But having had that conversation on different viewpoints, we make a decision that's best suited for Indian cricket. We never had that feeling that our views were rejected.

With Ravibhai, you could always go and tell him: This is what is happening now, maybe you should change the batting order; talk to Sanjay or Vikram, backed by data, to tactically stay ahead in the game.

What made Ravi Shastri tick as a coach?

Leadership qualities and man-management skills. These are some of his (Shastri) best qualities that come to mind. He could get things done -- whether it was from the CoA then or the BCCI.

He had great stature and that was required. He was a players' man and knew what they wanted, and also helped them remain in that space. He is a good leader and an outstanding man-manager.

You haven't played any international cricket. What was your acceptance level among the players when you joined the set-up?

It's a good question. I was one of the first non-international India coaches in that set-up. It actually helped in my coaching journey because I knew what it took to handle failures. I didn't play international cricket because I wasn't good enough to play.

But I kind of knew what it took to be an international cricketer. That probably gave me a slight edge; but having played First Class cricket for 11 years gave me enough knowledge about the game to handle my coaching skills.

If you are able to give the player what he wants, they don't mind whether you have played 0 Tests or 100 Tests. As long as you are able to help them improve and have the knowledge and understanding the game and are helping them become better players, they don't care.

I told them on Day 1: “Look, I have not played international cricket but I can help you guys become better players, because I had already coached for 14 years. Nowadays it's evident that coaching is more a hands-on job and you can't do that by just sitting on a chair.

How did you handle the star players?

All players are same for me. They are confident and are playing at a certain level because of their skill sets. None of our players have egos and they are simple, grounded human beings.

If you have an open channel of communication and help them to remain in their zone with whatever they want, it's not a problem. They are simple boys. They are open to suggestions; they want communication and conversations about strategies. With their experience, they are certain to have a point of view which is more often than not right.

You have played for Hyderabad with Mohammad Azharuddin and coached Ravindra Jadeja in this national team. Give us a sense whom could we call a better fielder amongst the two?

It is difficult to judge across different eras and fielding judged by different standards. In the '80s, when Ajjubhai (Azharuddin) made his debut, there was no fitness culture in Indian cricket.

It kicked in only in late '90s and Ajjubhai was a stand-out because of his athleticism and because he had great hands, good throw. The benchmark was probably different.

Jadeja is someone who is pleasing to the eye even when he is chasing a ball to the boundary. He is a cut above the rest in world cricket. So was Azhar during his time.

Azhar, between 1985-‘90, would have been a brilliant fielder even now, whether it was standing in the slips, close-in or being lightning quick across the outfield.

How does one become a good slip fielder?

With practice comes confidence and also knowledge of that position, which in turn brings in consistency. Obviously, being a certainty (in the playing eleven) helps (smiles). When you are a certainty in the team, it helps you become a better slip fielder. That's why we had (Cheteshwar) Pujara, then Virat (Kohli), then Rohit (Sharma), who is also an outstanding slip fielder.

The right person standing in the right position brings consistency. That's a part of planning and preparation.

Why do we see newcomers thrust at forward short-leg or silly point?

A new player is always encouraged to take the helmet because -- firstly, his reflexes are better. Secondly, he is fitter than an older player and can stand in that position for a long time. This is my understanding.

But it is a myth that seniors don't stand at close-in positions. Puji (Cheteshwar Pujara) was standing at close-in in Kanpur. Ajinkya (Rahane) on some days would stand close in, (VVS) Laxman and Rahul (Dravid) also did it till their final Test.

Alastair Cook, in his 164th game, was standing at silly point and short leg.

How do you sum up your journey and how is Indian fielding now from where you began in 2014?

Obviously, that's the best phase of my life. I cannot be discontent, but there is always room for improvement. Coaching philosophies and coaching methods also keep changing as you embark on that journey and reach towards the end.

As far as where Indian fielding standards are now compared to when I took charge, I leave it up to the people on the outside to judge.

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