Rudi Webster has been synonymous with success on a cricket field — from managing the all-conquering West Indies side of the 1970s and 80s to being an integral part of Kolkata Knight Riders’ IPL-winning campaign in 2012. Over the years, he’s also been credited with having helped a number of cricketers and other sportspersons, including Virender Sehwag and Viv Richards, achieve their true potential. Along the way, the renowned sports psychologist has also seen cricket evolve from close quarters. Here, the 74-year-old Barbados-born Webster talks about the pros and cons of having a burgeoning support staff, the similarities he found between the West Indies dressing-room and the IPL dug-outs, and the challenges for the backroom staff of keeping pace with the high-paced environs of T20 cricket.
In Test cricket and One Day Internationals, captains and coaches have ample time before and during the tour to improve, strengthen and integrate the four pillars of performance — fitness, technical skills, tactics-cum-strategies and mental skills.
Coaches and captains in the Indian Premier League do not have that luxury during their short, hectic and pressure-packed seasons. They focus strongly on the strategic-and-tactical pillar but too often ignore the equally important mental skills that work hand-in-hand with it — concentration, clear thinking, self-confidence and self-belief and the ability to use pressure in a positive way to improve performance and to get an advantage over opponents.
With the amazing technologies in the game and the large size of the support staff some coaches now pay too much attention to the gathering of information, analysis and diagnosis, but too little attention to solutions and execution. Many of today’s players have become too reliant on their coaches and have difficulty thinking for themselves. Consequently they run into trouble in the heat of the battle on the field when they have to stand on their own feet and make their own decisions.
During my short stint in the IPL, I worked exclusively with the local Indian players, many of whom were somewhat overwhelmed by the presence of the overseas and local superstars. I tried to increase their self-worth and improve their mental skills and impressed upon them that their contributions to the team were just as important as those of the superstars. I also told them that the team would not win consistently unless they fulfilled their roles and responsibilities.
In the 2012 final (Kolkata Knight Riders vs Chennai Super Kings), one of these lesser-known players (KKR’s Manvinder Bisla) set the team on the winning path and won the Man of the Match award for his brilliant batting and another continued…