Two seasons ago, when he was the coach of the Karnataka Under-25 team, Jagadeesh Arun Kumar had the urge to ride his motorbike. The team was playing in Chennai, but the Harley Davidson was parked in his garage in Bangalore. On the rest day, he gave in to his biker impulse, returned to Bangalore, revved up the engine and rode 350 kilometres to be back in time for the next game.
Most of the time though, ‘JAK’, the nickname he goes by, wears the mask of sobriety of a middle-aged cricket coach. On the Harley and showing off his tattoos, however, you could mistake him for a member of the Indian Hell’s Angels. But what he likes to be known as is a coach, who has clocked the miles the hard way on the cricket field.
Arun has played over a 100 first-class matches, scored over 7,000 runs, scored hundreds in back-to-back Ranji Trophy finals for a victorious Karnataka in the late 90s. And now, he is currently on a high. Karnataka have entered the Ranji Trophy final, and will play Maharashtra in Hyderabad, a little over a year after he was appointed their batting coach.
This season, Karnataka’s batsmen have score 13 hundreds — the most by any side. Three of them have come from Karun Nair, 22, who made his debut a little over a month ago. Lokesh Rahul, 21, has scored a season-best 873 runs and scored two of this three hundreds in the past months. Medium-pacer HS Sharath, who made his debut last season, has 32 scalps, while rookie leggie Shreyas Gopal has scalped 18 wickets.
One of the reasons for the team’s success is the changes to the coaching staff. Ahead of the 2012-13 season, the Anil Kumble-led Karnataka State Cricket Association decided to split the coaching duties. JAK was appointed as batting coach and MAK (Mansur Ali Khan) became the bowling coach.
The other reason was due to the timely selection of youngsters. “We felt that we needed to look beyond players who are 26-27 but are still fighting for a place in the squad. If they were struggling to make the team then it was better to give youngsters a break,” Arun says of the biggest challenge he faced when he took over. Senior players like KB Pawan and Rajoo Bhatkal were replaced by fresher legs and up to six players have made their debuts since.
Changes, however, were not restricted to personnel alone. The baseball bat and a broom were new additions to the training equipment. Arun is a certified Level-II coach but he also has the ability to think out of the box. Instead of using an angled cricket bat to give continued…