Friday, May 25, 2012

Pakistani Umpire on top of the world

Two Pakistani Umpires- the best in the World- officiate in the 2nd Test at Trent Bridge turning cricketing life a full circle


Almost 25years  after a full day’s play was called off in a test match in Pakistan, life, in cricket, seems to have come a full circle.

That late evening in December 1987 on the 2nd day of the 2nd test at Faisalabad was one of the darkest in the English cricket history after the Bodyline series. England were well poised to come back into the three test series after being flummoxed by Abdul Qadir and going down to a crushing defeat in the first test.Qadir, that great leggie, had 7LBW decisions in his favour in the first test ( one that Shakoor Rana did not officiate!!)
With Pakistan struggling in their 1st innings chasing a biggish England score, Shakoor Rana, one of the umpires, pulled up Mike Gatting, the English captain, for moving a fielder once the bowler started his run up.  

In an ugly war of words, the match was brought to a grounding halt with the Pakistani umpire demanding an apology from Gatting for his abusive language and for his unsportsmanlike conduct.

With Gatts refusing, the entire third day’s play was lost pushing England behind in their pursuit of squaring the series. In those days, there was a consensus across the cricketing community about the poor quality of the Pakistani umpires. Added to this was the constant accusation of biased umpiring as well.

While Gatting himself was not known as the most sporting of players, the heat on this particular episode was turned completely on Shakoor Rana. That year, this was one of the most talked about rows in cricket bringing to the table an ever increasing nod for neutral umpires.
This morning, 325pm IST, at Trent Bridge, in the 2nd test of the 3test series between England and West Indies, two Pakistani Umpires- Asad Rauf and Aleem Dar came out on to the field in a historic moment. That day, 25years ago, the English media went on a rampage against Shakoor Rana in particular and the Pakistani umpires in general. The cricketing world seemed to support the move against Pakistani umpires, which finally led to the neutral panel. 

Today, there is a consensus across the cricketing experts in England that Aleem Dar is by far the best umpire in the World with Asad Rauf not far behind.

Those days of endless controversies relating to Pakistani Umpires - the period in the 1980s- now seem a thing of the distant past.

In the last year or so, Aleem Dar has replaced Simon Taufel as the umpire the players seem to trust most.
Kudos to the Pakistani Umpire for he has turned life a full circle over the last 25years, at least in the cricketing arena.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

High Performance Coaching- Is the TNCA listening?

26year old highly talented rookie is carving a niche for himself in 'High Performance Coaching' programme for cricketers but  Chennai’s own Sriram Krishnamurthy may be lost to Australia and  England if TNCA continues to give him a ‘go-by’

'Coaching Position is one of Responsibility, Not of Power'- Sriram

 Victorian Club President - Sriram's Top Qualities include achieving Great Results with the Junior players and being Personable with High Integrity



















About 12years ago, two promising U14 boys – K Sriram and N Sriram - were shattered when they found their names missing from the Tamil Nadu State team following a failure in the bone test. Despite the promise they held and considered a definite selection in the squad (N Sriram had scored a double hundred in a 25over school match), there was no direct communication to them and both of them (through their parents) found that their names were missing from the notice board at the TNCA. As they completed their nets session at the U14 Camp, their parents waited at the gate of the TNCA to give them the bad news.

Hearing that, one of them- N. Sriram- decided that he had had enough and did not touch a bat again. Thankfully, he was a good student academically, went to BITS Pilani and is now happily employed and settled in the US.

The other Sriram- Sriram Krishnamurthy (K. Sriram) who had a major part of his schooling at Bala Vidya Mandir, Adyar, was a lot more determined on the cricket front and continued to battle it out in the coming years. However, the same process came to sting him at the last moment, every time over the next 5years.  Someone who was not in the top known (cricketing) schools of Chennai had to fight an uphill battle to make his way to the top.

Bone Tests Stump Sriram
Both at U16 and U19 levels, he went through the selection process with tons of runs behind him only to be discarded by the ‘bone test’ at the last minute. It was only at the bone test taken prior to the announcement of the U19 state squad, did the doctor for the very first time sit with him for a personal discussion to give him the bad news and to tell him the results of the bone test.

During this entire period spanning over 6years, there was very little sensitivity shown in the handling of this talented left hand batsman.

Once, RBI’s S. Ramesh even took his case up with TNCA and also all the way with the BCCI on the rule of Class Ten students being ineligible for U14selections. Later, S. Ramesh and NS Ramesh were also instrumental in securing him opportunities to play for RBI in 2nd division league in Chennai.

Surviving a Painful Phase
Somehow, Sriram (Krishnamurthy), unlike his other name sake, survived that phase, overcame his ‘bone’ disappointments (wondering many times as to why his bone had over grown and stumped him time and again) and continued to fight, but despite a run of good scores in lower division league, he was rejected by first division teams time and again at the last minute after impressing the relevant people in the selection trials (No God Father!!!).

There was a point when Sriram almost decided that he would not go for first division selection trials. It was S. Ramesh of RBI once again who helped him get a look in with a first division side. Interestingly, he played his first year of first division cricket for India Cement’s Grand Slam as a wicket keeper after an injury to the main wicket keeper of the side (After many years of being stumped off the field by different people at different levels, perhaps he was destined to stump a few on the field!!!).

After B.Com at Loyola college ( he had sports quota offers from Vivekananda and Guru Nanak College as well), he joined Ajuba Solutions, a Chennai based BPO firm where the night shift work impacted his performance in the league matches for RBI. During that year, it was another team mate at RBI, Keith Ward who asked him to decide on his future focus – a full time job versus focus on cricket.
 
He informed his BPO firm that he would like to quit the job (he had already been awarded the best trainee there).  During the short period that he was there, Sriram had proactively worked on a performance improvement chart that impressed his project manager that he actually offered him a day management job.

But by this time and having to fight against all odds every single time, the lack of a professional cricketing system in Chennai had got through to Sriram. It occurred to him that the cricket system here was fully based on ‘who you know’ and 'have to be in the right place at the right time with the right set of people'.

Cricket in the UK with the Ashes winning England Side
After having fought his way through for almost 10years, Sriram decided that he would move to the UK in 2008 to try his hand in a more professional set up.

That English Summer, he played for Cornwell Cricket Club, a minor county. Within the next year, he was selected in an ‘Overseas team’ comprising of the best overseas players (there are 24 teams in that league with each team having 4 overseas players. He had performed well enough to be one of the 11players of those 96overseas players).

This overseas team went to that famous English ground in Edgbaston to play against Warwickshire U19 team. Impressed with his performance, former England spinner and Director of Warwickshire County Club Ashley Giles presented Sriram with his jumper. The professionalism in English cricket motivated Sriram to stay back in the UK for another 6months. He decided to pursue his academics and did his Masters in HRD ( Human Resource Development) from the Lancaster University in Manchester, where he also played cricket.

It was during this period at Manchester that got him initiated into Coaching. His Masters degree had a paper on Knowledge Management (one that is well known and practised in the corporate world). Sriram wanted to see if this concept could be implemented in the sports field.

A turning point came when the Director of Lancaster Cricket Board (LCB) watched Sriram score a brilliant hundred that English Summer and enquired about him and his ambition in life. When Sriram Krishnamurthy spoke to him about the thesis he was to do as part of his Masters degree, the director asked him to do the thesis on Lancashire Cricket Club. An overjoyed Sriram spent the next six months with the county team researching on the coaching philosophies.

So impressed was he with Sriram’s efforts, that the LCB director asked him to continue with the club for another year even after he had completed the thesis related work.

In 2010, Sriram went back to England, this time on the invitation of The English and Wales Cricket Board to do High Performance Coaching related work ahead of the 2010-11 Ashes. Sriram conducted Coaching Workshop for coaches including lecture sessions for those coaches who were handling the English team playing the Aussies that year. It was a three month programme that involved High Performance coaching.

Anchoring the behind the scenes programme, Sriram followed almost a shadow of the English Players during that period closely monitoring them in order to create a workshop for them. He spent a whole of three weeks understanding them and their system.

Despite that role with the Ashes winning England team, Sriram’s mind was always in Chennai and to work closely in his home state. He wanted to make a difference to Tamil Nadu Cricket and later with Indian cricket.  He came back here in late 2010 with the idea of launching a coaching workshop and the High Performance coaching programme.

TNCA and NCA show No Interest in Sriram's High Performance Coaching System
He held talks with TNCA officials including the then captain of the Tamil Nadu Ranji Team. As had been his experience over the previous decade of playing here in Chennai, things did not progress as he would have liked though he had just had a successful stint in England.

TNCA lose Sriram to Australia!!!
Chennai’s loss seemed to be Australia’s gain for former Aussie coach Tim Nielsen, who had heard of him in Lancashire and who had seen Sriram work with the English team initiated a process for Sriram to undertake a captain cum coach engagement in Australia (And yet no one in his home land – be it the concerned authorities in the TNCA and elsewhere- seem to want to leverage the huge potential in this young rookie).  

Frustrated with the lack of response in his home city, Sriram made his way to Australia as part of the two year contract that he signed with Murgheboluc Cricket Club (in Victoria) that had about 100members and 5teams under its fold. There in Victoria, Sriram was made responsible for the overall personality and cricket development of 75players of that club.  He developed a coaching plan and created a coaching structure for the club.

High Performance Coaching Model


















For the next 6months in that Australian Summer, Sriram Krishnamurthy worked closely with young players in Australia working on his specialised coaching model that starts from understanding the player’s background, his character, his lifestyle, attitude and finally his technical cricketing skills.

With every student in Australia that he worked with, Sriram spent several hours understanding inside out their social side, their work ethics and their professional side (Club cricketers in Australia who are not contracted nationally actually are on day jobs on playing days) identifying their strengths and weaknesses which in turn impact their on-field cricketing performance.

During this period, he clearly instilled a sense of self belief in his students making them mentally stronger and providing them with clarity in their thought process on what they could achieve on the field in cricket.

It was not a straight forward process at all for Sriram, who for long played alongside Anirudh Srikkanth in Chennai. In fact, it was very complex to identify the strengths of each and every kid and to make them understand their potential and then to make them play to their potential. Given the short attention span of kids, it took Sriram several weeks to undertake this process and to then translate what he had understood of them into a process driven framework for them to follow and implement, one that enabled the kids to create a separate identity for them while at the same time making them enjoy their game.

Understand the cricketer's background and the social side of life
Understand and analyse his Character based on his lifestyle, work ethic and attitude
Analyse his technical skills- strengths and weaknesses

A failure of a player in a match / set of matches may not be just because of some technical flaw. Any of the above mentioned factors could play a role in the success or failure of a cricketer. Based on this analysis of multiple factors, Sriram goes about creating a specific coaching plan for each kid. 



As a one on one personal coach, Sriram believes strongly in being fully responsible for their performance over a period of time. Without accountability, the concept of one on one coaching will not be successful, says Sriram.

Coaching methodology is very structured and professional in Australia . For example, coaches in Australia and the UK at all levels right from the junior most are present at the ground 30minutes before scheduled start of the session to get things ready for the players.  So much preparation is required in a coaching engagement. Typical Indian coaches rarely realise that. Very rarely will you find that in Chennai/ India. Most of the time, you will see coaches walking in alongside the players.

Writing on LinkedIn, Ron Stoop, President Murgheboluc Cricket Club, Victoria, Australia endorsed Sriram's role with the players at the club : "Sriram has shown tremendous leadership at the club and has undertaken a fantastic job with developing our junior players through the junior development squad he established."
 
He is of the view that Sriram's Top Qualities include achieving Great Results with the Junior players and being Personable with High Integrity.

Cricket Coaching develops overall personality
Coaching, Sriram says, is synonymous with overall development of the individual. Coaches should push students to fulfil and exceed potential. Coaching Position is one of Responsibility, Not of Power. 

Communication skill is very important for a coach. Also, coaches have to understand social psychology and be empathetic with their wards.The aim of the coach should be to ensure that this students play to their fullest potential by creating a sense of enjoyment for the game and a competitive streak in them. They have to have a desire to practice and play when they wake up every morning.

For these kids that he is engaging with in Australia, Sriram uses a performance incentive model where he spends out of his pocket after they achieve a certain pre-set milestone in every match or practice session.
 
Having experienced 4years of playing and coaching in England and Australia, Sriram believes that there is a world of difference in the meaning of the term ‘professionalism’ as seen and understood in India and as practised in Australia and the UK. Here, in Chennai / India, professionalism is just offering your services for money, where as in those two countries, professionalism really relates to the way you conduct yourself, the work ethics, mentoring youngsters and giving your best in everything you do.

Will TNCA grab him before it is too late
Now 26, Sriram Krishnamurthy has a burning desire to be involved with Indian cricket with a specific objective of improving the coaching system and structure here in our country. His Masters in HR gives him an edge in understanding the psyche of cricketers before devising a performance enhancement and achievement plan for them and he has fought against odds to remain in cricket when others may have given it up ( like his name sake did a decade ago). He continues to be a determined left hand bat, kept wickets in first division, bowls off spin when captaining his club team in Victoria, Australia.

Given that TNCA and the then TN captain did not respond favourably to his coaching offer despite him showcasing the work he had done with the England team and in Australia, and with the then NCA Chairman (former India Captain) not responding to any of Sriram offer to explore the possibility of working towards a structured and a professional coaching system, and with offers and long term contracts pouring in from Australia (including stints involving coaching U13 and U15 kids in Geelong) and the ECB, Sriram may well turn out to be another case of great Indian talent being lost to 'Overseas Professionalism',  to countries that are always looking out for continuous improvement!!

PS: Despite being the nephew of Chennai’s greatest sporting icon, Sriram Krishnamurthy did not once during all those years of turmoil in his cricketing days here in the city, use that icon’s name for favours. If nothing else, that characteristic alone will stand him in good stead as he seeks to carve a niche for himself in High Performance Coaching. Hope the TNCA is listening!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cricket Coaching Academies

Treat every Net Session as the most important of your life
'Hard work pays- There is no substitute for hard work' - TS Mukund

For over 15years, T Subba Rao Mukund (TS Mukund) coached, directed and mentored Test Cricketer Abhinav Mukund while at the same time also donning the additional role of a parent. If ever there was a success case study on the role of  parent-coach in a cricketer, TS Mukund would qualify for one.

In this chat, he talks about the sacrifices that the cricketer couple (TS Mukund’s wife was also a cricketer) had to make for their son through Abhinav’s formative years. Rolling out several examples from his own coaching days (he rarely coaches these days- he is almost a misfit at most of the camps for he cannot tolerate indiscipline among his wards), he outlines simple cricketing tips that every youngster would do well to follow and implement to achieve success.
 


















 Big Time Sacrifices have to be made not just by the Cricketer but by the parents as well
Abhinav was not yet out of school when at the NCA (National Cricket Academy), he was found to have a little additional fat. That evening at the NCA, he stopped eating his ‘Favourite Appalam’ that had till then formed a part of his daily meal. It’s been five years now since that event and Abhinav has not touched an Appalam again. But guess what, if that was not enough of a sacrifice, his parents too have stopped buying Appalam at home and have stopped eating appalam as well.

Given the Fat factor coming into play for Abhinav, Mr. and Mrs. Mukund, as parents, have not had an ice cream for years now (especially when Abhinav has been around).

Following a strict diet pattern has to be an integral part of  a cricketers’s daily routine. Parents have to ask the coach (or the dietician at the academy, if there is one!!) about the kind of diet for their children and follow that religiously, says TS Mukund.

A good night’s sleep
With Abhinav’s eyes set on making a Test comeback, his next big opportunity is the upcoming A Tour in the West Indies. As a lead up to this, Abhinav is currently reworking his daily sleep schedule. He is making efforts to sleep only after 2am / 3am in the night and wake up after 11am so he could get accustomed to the Carribean time zone. This is a sample of what a ‘wannabe’ Test Cricketer has to go through.

‘A young cricketer not yet into his teens has to sleep at 9pm and has to have solid sleep. Good Sleep is an essential part of a cricketer’s life’ is a strong message from Mukund.

‘Watching IPL late into the night when there is a practice at 6am the next morning has to be at the top of the list of ‘Do Nots’ for a cricketer.’ More importantly, what this also means is that parents too have to stop watching TV after a certain time in the evening for the sake of their son. And that is a sacrifice they will have to make for years on end if they are serious about giving their son an ideal cricketing platform at home.

Some of these sacrifices may seem very trivial, yet in the overall development of a player, each of these plays a very important role as a youngster seeks a move from ‘start up’ cricket to emerge as a top notch cricketer playing at the highest level.

Choosing a Coaching Academy
The root of many of the problems for a young cricketer lies in choosing the coaching academy where the cricketing student spends the formative years of his cricket, learning and strengthening the basics of the game. Number of wards inside a coaching camp, number of students attached to one particular coach and the quality of coaches are important indicators on the kind of attention your kid will get. A coach should be a good communicator and should share his tips in a simple language without jargons (How often have we heard coaches say ‘bracing too much’, ‘loading is not right’). He should also be a good listener and have the patience to answer all the questions of the young kids. Good knowledge of the game including the rules is also an important factor.

Mukund believes 15students is the maximum number a single coach should have for him to pay proper attention to the kids.

Parents seem to be clueless when it comes to choosing the right cricket academy for their children. They have to understand the background of the academy. It is important for them to have a chat with the Head Coach before taking a call.’ For some reason, they don’t seem to be doing that, laments Mukund.
 
DO NOT APPLY PRESSURE ON THE KIDS
The typical tendency of a parent is to immediately apply pressure on the kid after having initiated him into an academy expecting immediate results.  Mukund says, ‘Coaching is a process, it cannot produce results immediately. The parent as well as the cricketer has to have the full confidence in the coach.’ There are no short cuts to success.

While on this, Mukund comes up with a brilliant one liner- ‘Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional’

You cannot achieve cricketing success in one day, though you sure will achieve it one day if you show a long term commitment and put in the long hours of hard work every day and follow the directions of your coach.

Book Reading
Book reading should form part of a coaching academy says Mukund. “I used to read a lot of books for my students. In fact, on rainy days, book reading was a typical session we used to have when I used to coach Vidya Mandir students in the late 1990s.” Kids also should watch cricketing videos that are relevant to them.

Do not go for your Kids’ matches
Mukund has a strong message for the parents. “Stop going for matches of your kids. Let the kids enjoy the game as a sport and they will be able to translate their learning into practice without being under the glaring eye of their parents.”

8years ago, a boy then a under 13cricketer, was playing alongside me for a V Division league team.
He got out at 9.33am to the third ball of that 50overs a side league match that Sunday morning at SRMC ground in Porur edging an intended cut to the keeper.

Pat came the message from the father in front of our shocked team. ‘You have wasted my entire Sunday. What will you (and I) do here for the next 99overs?’ This kind of an event at a cricket ground is not an aberration. In fact, this is symbolic of ‘parental pressure’ that crushes the interests of the kids. Since then, this once talented kid has gone into oblivion.

Mukund sums up this attitude saying ‘Dejection will result in early retirement’.

Don’t go anywhere near Selectors
Mukund says he finds parents these days worried all the time about selection. Parents should focus on providing the right environment for the kids that will be conducive for the kids to perform at their best. Parents and the kid should not worry about selection. ‘Parents should stay far away from the selectors.’

(In 2010, I was witness to a parent talking one on one to a former Ranji Player turned U19 selector at St. Bedes ground on the exact batting spot he expects for his son in the U19 match that year)

Look Inward –Don’t compare
Do not be jealous of other kids and do no compare the performance of your son with that of others in the team. This will be a de-motivating factor for your son. Mukund finds this another typical mistake that parents and kids make these days. They are always looking outwards when they should be focusing inward and ways to improving the self.

Mukund remembers a phone call that he received several years ago that typifies this behaviour. Abhinav and another cricketer of his same age were progressing on similar lines and being equally successful in their school and age group cricket.

The call that Mukund got went something like this: “The openers’ spot is sealed. My son will bat at no. 3. Which number do you think Abhinav will bat at?”

Importance of Nets
TS Mukund believes that cricketers, especially those in the early teens don’t realise the importance of net sessions.  He says every kid should treat every session as the most important net session of his life. Intensity of Practice is important.  Kids would do well to have small targets for every net session that they should work towards and improve upon. Be fully occupied during every coaching session- do not talk unnecessarily. Follow and implement coach’s instructions and review periodically with the coaches.

Mukund sums up with a message that is applicable to all of us in every walk of life – “Remember hard work pays- there is no substitute for hard work. Have patience- Work Hard and you will achieve success”.

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Choose your academy with care after background check and feedback from your friends/relatives/ other credible cricket sources
Choose your coach with care- Ensure that he will be available for you and that you will get his personal attention over a long period of time
Prepare for every Net Session as if it is the most important session of your life
Learn something every day from the coach and from every net session
Come with a clear objective for every net session
If you are not batting or bowling at the nets, do some fielding, watch closely how others are bowling or batting and talk to your coach about your improvement
Implement consciously what your coach has suggested on technical skills improvement
Do not listen to multiple coaches- Trust in your coach and follow his suggestions

Sleep by 930pm every night and wake up by 5am every morning- Make this a routine
Vacations/ Family Trips/Movies/Friends may have to be sacrificed for many years ( 10-15years) if you want to achieve big success in cricket – Decide early if you are ready for those kind of sacrifices
Follow a regular diet pattern- ask for specifics on your diet from your coach/dietician
Understand from the coach / dietician as to what you should eat/drink and what you should not eat/drink
and follow this without fail
Ask your coach to teach you finer aspects of the game- running between the wickets, backing up as a runner, walking in while fielding, catching position while fielding close to the wicket like slips, short leg, silly point
Watch technical videos on batting/bowling/fielding to improve your basics
Read Sir Donald Bradman’s book - ‘The Art of Cricket’

Work hard on your technical skills- 45mts -1hour of batting every day (for a batsman) 1-2hours of bowling for a bowler
Take at least 50catches at least twice or thrice a week- Also, work hard on ground fielding- Proactively ask your coach on the specifics of your fielding training
Focus also on exercises, running and physical fitness. Proactively ask and Understand from your coach on the specifics of your daily/ weekly fitness training
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Pit fall in Choosing an Academy
In many cases, students have been let down by the ‘brand’. For example, two of the lead brand owners of the cricket camp at Gandhi Nagar Club Ground are missing in action as they are busy discharging an assignment handed out by the TNCA. (read story : http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2012/04/cricket-coaching-camp-in-chennai.html)

A banner at the Vivekananda College in Mylapore reads ‘Camp by Former Ranji, Duleep, Board President XI cricketer’ accompanied by a not so relevant photograph of GR Vishwanath almost giving an impression to parents that the future GRVs would come out of the camp. Unfortunately, the former Ranji, Duleep, Board President’s XI cricketer turned coach has been missing in action.

Not far away from the Vivekananda College and in the heart of Mylapore, inside the Mylapore Club, is the VB Cricket Academy, one that seems to continue to remain popular. For the last couple of years, the fate of the students here has been the same as that of the above mentioned summer camps.  

VB Chandrasekar, the anchor and the brand owner of the VB Cricket Academy, had been missing from coaching action for a long time with assignments for NEO TV.

Even while away, VB kept in touch with his coaching staff on a daily basis even giving instructions once over the phone from Bangladesh (where he was part of the commentary team for the Pakistan V Bangladesh Test Match last season) on the preparation of the pitch but his absence meant that his wards missed the much needed and sought for ‘VB Touch’.

The Good News for VB Academy kids this summer is that he has not missed a single day of coaching and has promised to pay his fullest attention to his wards. A sample of this was seen last evening under the lights at the Mylapore Club as in his typical aggressive style directed the show guiding one batsman on the sweep shot, a leg spinner on the high arm action and a left hander on how to play the ball straight

Three hours with VB and you could immediately feel a sense of discipline among the boys. A 1minute delay in making his way to the nets and you heard the familiar voice of VB giving it a big shout that had the boy sprinting his way into the nets for a batting session.

3years ago, VB had mentioned in a chat to me that what he brings to the kids is discipline, character building and technical skills involved in learning the game. Each of that was visible last evening)

The bottomline is this: The Brand Owner has to be physically present at the camp to make a difference for that is the ‘Selling Point’ of the academy.

 PS: Following the mushrooming of cricket academies in the city, Personal One on One coaching seems to be the next rage. More on that shortly including on how some of them are progressing and what lies in store for the future…