It is pretty evident that in North of India teams play aggressive cricket and in the West, teams believe in the waiting game. There is a marked difference in how teams approach cricket. Haryana has been a pretty good team in the past and my job as batting consultant involves looking after the batting unit which also includes quite a few youngsters at this stage. We work on the technique of the batsmen on both mental and physical levels. The other job is to work with the complete batting unit which will also include the experienced ones.
The experienced ones have played cricket in a certain manner for a while so with them it’s all about recommending effective adjustments. With youngsters you can thoroughly work on their technique as their batting style can be refined at the early stage of their careers. Making changes is best avoided during the season. We have had few off-season camps where we have been working thoroughly with the batting unit with the help of video analysis. Amongst the prominent youngsters - Himanshu Rana, who is one of the U19 India players, Rohit Sharma, Mohit Hooda, Chaitanya Bishnoi and Shamsher Yadav, who have been added to the squad and shown a lot of promise so far.
I am looking forward to the one-day format because I think their skill base is more suited to one-day cricket.
I think the coach’s job is showing the way. You can’t go out there and bat for them or bowl for them so it is about sharing your experience and showing the way. Besides telling specific things, I think the coach should discuss ideas which will make them more effective performers in the field. It is more about selling ideas which some of the brighter ones catch on to and do well.
Preparing youngsters for tournaments: To prepare players for competitions, we looked at their mental set-up as well as their technical side using video analysis. We found certain issues in their batting technique which needed to be addressed for which one-on-one sessions with players were found to be very productive.
The next phase was to try out the newly acquired technique in the nets as well as the practice matches. Along with this, players were given lots of mental exercises. It is the mental set up of the player which separates the good from the best. Some of the techniques we use for mental preparation are deep rooted in yoga. Techniques like visualization and imagery amongst others are important in making a player realise where he needs to be when he is in the competition.
We have gone about our business in a very comprehensive manner and the results will show. The work which is being put into the group shows results when the new technique is adopted by player in its entirety. The team has shown glimpses of good batting performances towards the end of the four-day format where Nitin Saini started scoring a lot of runs and the youngsters held up well to the challenges of first-class cricket.
Continuing from there the players are also responding well in the ongoing Vijay Hazare tournament. Presence of Virender Sehwag in our dressing room is also helping their game. Batting tips from such a great role model also helps the youngsters immensely.
Batting practice: Batting in the longer format is as much a mental exercise as it is physical. It is important that the players understand that going back to the simple ball-to-ball approach is the most important thing in multi-day cricket. Enjoying the process of batting for a long duration in multi-day cricket is also immensely important.
In the present domestic scene, lots of result oriented pitches are being prepared and hence occupation of the crease with a healthy strike rate has become imminently important. It is very essential that in multi-day cricket, a batsman is able to bat not only in one, but multiple sessions. There are also variables involved like tough batting conditions where the batsman needs to soak pressure for a while and then go on to the offensive. In multi-day cricket it is also essential for the batting unit to take the game forward at such pace that the team gets into a position of strength from where they can think about outright wins.
I think all the present day cricketers are blessed with the brilliant shot making ability, but at the same time they are deficient on the defensive aspect of the game. However, with the strike rate that they possess, if they last for a couple of hours on the pitch, the number of runs they score is quite higher than the previous generation. But it has to be a combination of both to succeed.
Keeping all the factors in mind, I believe that no matter what pace you bat at or how aggressive you are, the very best of aggressive cricketers in the world possess very sound technique and that’s what I try to instill in the youngsters. There has to be a method behind aggressive cricket, as it helps you to shift gears if need be.
Approaching sessions in context to the innings: I always tell youngsters, that if you can become a situational batsman you have won the battle. A batsman’s role changes with every session. I am a big fan of batsmen who understand the situation and have the resolve to sort it out in the middle across different formats. The best way to score runs is by being in the middle. The player has to bear in mind that the objective of the team is at the top of the agenda. If there is a task assigned to you for a session by the team, you assess the bowling, the pitch, the weather condition and all other factors which come into play and which help in achieving the team objective.
Batting drills – There are certain drills that are suited to facing fast bowlers on turning tracks, others for wickets conducive to fast bowling, so on and so forth. There are a lot of drills which will help prepare for executing shots under pressure. I also believe that the side-arm tool that we use now, which throws the ball at the batsman is very effective. You can crank up a decent pace and movement with it. If you are an expert at that it gives batsman great practice. These drills stem from different situations in the match and the way players approach them. Match simulation or a centre pitch activity without nets is probably the most effective batting drill. It allows the player to understand the field positions, gapping (finding gaps). One can use imagination and put it a structured manner and it becomes a drill.