WITHOUT GETTING into the specifics with regards to the differences in the coaching styles of Anil Kumble and his predecessor Ravi Shastri, R Sridhar the Indian team fielding coach insisted that a head coach of a modern-day cricket team needs to yield to the demands of the entire group. Sridhar has been part of the setup for nearly three years and has worked under both the Shastri and Kumble regimes.
And while admitting that India’s two previous coaches having been different in styles, he also gave a little insight into what Virat Kohli & Co would require in a coach. “What’s important in today’s cricket as a leader is to follow the energies within the group. It’s important to be receptive. You have to yield to the demands of the group and you have to make sure that each guy is in the best possible space,” he said on Tuesday.
He also felt that with the kind of players in the present Indian team, the coach’s focus should be on letting their experience be taken on board while taking decisions. “The current Indian has some great experience. So we should allow that experience to take over and be inclusive and take the best possible decisions for the team. What is important to be a good leader is to be a good follower,” said Sridhar.
The former Andhra cricketer joined the coaching staff alongside Sanjay Bangar when Shastri was appointed as team director for the ODI leg of India’s 2014 tour to England. And apart from a couple of tours last year, Zimbabwe and the Caribbean where he was replaced by Abhay Sharma, he’s been an integral part of the dressing room. According to Sridhar, while both Kumble and Shastri had the same desire of “making India the best cricket-playing nation in the world” their approaches were different.
“In the Shastri era we worked on the same lines. Anil Kumble came, he had his own way of doing things. Shastri was somebody who was character-based. He wanted good characters in the team, so he worked on the kind of approach he wanted to take on the field, which carried into the Kumble era as well. Kumble was somebody who wanted to achieve excellence and had his own way,” he said. Sridhar also waxed philosophical when asked to compare the two styles and which suited the team’s approach better.
“Two different people cannot be the same. It’s like hand-writing. You and I can’t write the same. The final endeavour is to make sure that what we write is legible. Similarly, each guy wants to achieve the kind of excellence, where they want to take the team. The goal is the same, but it is different ways of achieving the goal,” he said. Sridhar revealed that he’d enjoyed long-standing rapports with both Shastri and Kumble even before he’d worked with them in the Indian camp. He’d worked under Shastri during the former captain’s reign as National Cricket Academy director while he’d played alongside Kumble since their under-17 days.
“It’s easier being an assistant or second-third coach in the team because we don’t have to take tough decisions. You can always bounce your ideas with the head coach. It’s the head coach who has to take the tough decisions. As far as I am concerned, both of them gave me extreme freedom to work with. They never once asked me what I was doing or want me to do something specific,” he said.
Sridhar denied having any knowledge about Shastri having allegedly reapplied for the job as India coach. When asked about whether the Indian team was happier under Shastri as compared to Kumble, in the wake of the alleged rift between the captain and coach, he played it safe insisting that the players were more focused on their own preparation.
“Look, they are a professional outfit and they go about their business as to what is required for the team. So each guy is quite busy and taken up in his own preparations for each match. They know what to do and whom to speak to, and what to get out of the coaches. They are the best judges as how they need to prepare,” he said.