MUMBAI: The nationwide lockdown has left not just the players, but even the support staff of the Indian team twiddling their thumbs in anticipation of when exactly the game will resume.
In an exclusive chat – Vikram Rathour – the batting coach of the Indian team – who is also an ex-India opener and national selector, tells TOI how he and his colleagues have kept the players’ spirits high during the prolonged break.
Excerpts.
What have your tips been to the batsmen to keep themselves in the groove during lockdown?
The last few months have been unprecedented. None of us has gone through the kind of situation that we are facing now. The challenge was, or still is, to keep the players motivated and do the best they can to be ready for when the cricket starts. When you are playing international cricket, you are on the move all the time. Travelling and playing matches day-in-day-out. This break has given me an opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with the players.
As there was no possibility of playing cricket, the best thing to do was to do self-analysis and self-reflection. Identifying the areas of your game that you want to improve in, and also how you want to work towards it. Reflecting on the kind of cricket you’ve played last year. Things that you have done well and also things that you did not do well. The players were advised to do shadow practice and do lots of visualization.
Do you think that the batsmen will take more time to find their touch as compared to the bowlers?
I don’t think so. It will be equally challenging for both – batsmen and the bowlers – to get back to their peak form after a long break like this. The good thing is that most of the players have been managing to train well during the lockdown. Their fitness routines are being monitored closely by the trainers and physios. So, we are hoping that whenever the outdoor sessions start, it will be a matter of a few weeks of practice and then they should be ready to start playing some practice/domestic matches and then on to international cricket.
Are you open to the idea of team India playing in front of empty stadiums?
The priority will be for cricket to start. If at that time, there are still no vaccinations available, then whatever precautions are required, we will have to take. If that means having to play in empty stadiums, so be it. It is not ideal but I’m sure that the players will manage it.
Do you think that the batsmen will have a huge advantage now that the bowlers aren’t allowed to use saliva to shine the ball?
If you are not allowed to put anything on the ball to shine, then yes, it could be an advantage for the batters. But if you can use your sweat, or if the ICC allows some artificial stuff to shine the ball, then the difference would not be too big. As long as it is going to be the same for all the teams, it should be fine.
The batsmen received a lot of criticism for their lack of technique against swing and short-pitched bowling in New Zealand in the two Tests we lost there. What do you think went wrong?
New Zealand was a tough series. I don’t believe the issue was to do with poor technique. As a batting group, we had worked really hard during our preparations but somehow were not able to execute our game plans when it mattered. Also, the conditions that we got in Test matches, the amount of grass and kind of bounce we got, it is not easy to replicate that in your practise. But to be fair the conditions were the same for both the teams. They just handled them better than us. I believe everyone has learnt something from that tour and all are determined to do better on the next tour.
How receptive have the players been to advise from you so far? When do you feel the need for giving advice? What has been your general advice to batsmen, some of whom are the best in the world?
The players have been really good so far. They have been pretty open with having discussions and coming up with plans to improve individually and as a group. As to when do I feel the need to give advice, it is different with everyone. At this level, there is no standard time or situation for you to intervene. Each one is a different character and you as a coach need to identify it and approach accordingly. One thing is for sure: There is absolutely no stagnation in anyone in the group and they all are working hard to get better at what they do.
The general area of work has been so far to come up with better game plans. Batting is about scoring runs, so you as a batsman need to come up with a plan to score runs in any given situation with taking the least amount of risk.
Does it help that you’ve been a national selector before you took up this role?
I believe that all kind of experiences matters to be a good coach. Having played this game, having done coaching and of course, being a national selector – all of these experiences give you the insight to deal with different issues of the players. Having seen and dealt with most of the current players during my stint as a national selector is definitely an advantage for me in my role as India’s batting coach.



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