Vikram Rathour has been formally appointed the batting coach of the Indian Cricket Team. We caught up with him to know his plans and vision for Team India.
Congratulations on your appointment as the batting coach of the Indian Cricket Team. Your first thoughts?
It’s an honour and a privilege to be working with the Indian Cricket Team. When I started coaching, this was one thing I was looking at. You want to coach well, do well and do enough that you can be a part of this great setup.
Every move of Team India is closely monitored and scrutinized. How do you see this role and the responsibility that comes with it?
It’s a big responsibility. As coaches and as members of the support staff, our job is to provide support to help them achieve bigger things in life as cricketers. I see myself supporting the team in whichever way I can. I will be working with the batters and I will be there to provide any technical help they might need. I think there will be a lot of discussions. I will be trying to understand their mindset and understand the decisions they will be making when they are batting. My prime job will be to prepare them in an ideal way before a series or a match. I will try and replicate things as close to the real scenario and get them ready.
Tell us a bit about your coaching philosophy.
When I captained Punjab for close to six years, I realized I had it in me to be a coach. I was a good man-manager and during the last stage of my playing career, I was doing a lot of things that coaches normally do. I knew eventually that this is what I will be doing. I retired in 2002 and moved to England for six years. I was clear I needed to take a break before taking up coaching. The break helped me come back with fresh ideas.
I have played cricket for many years, but coaching is something you have to learn. Coaching is something very different from playing. I did Level A and B from BCCI and Level C from Cricket Australia. I learned this art. I think coaching is something that you keep getting better at. The idea is about getting better after every session. You can make mistakes and you need to accept that you’ve made mistakes but need to analyse them and sort them out.
At this level, man-management is the key. How you support them, how you look after them in tough times has been my strength. The three courses have given me an edge in understanding the technique and technical aspect. I have been the Head Coach with Punjab and Himachal and also the Director of Cricket at Himachal and know what the players expect.
I want to create an environment where players aren’t scared of making mistakes, where mistakes are not looked down upon because they are learning opportunities. You can fail once in a while, but you must learn from your failures and get better.
For years India have produced some of the leading run scorers in the world. At present, India have arguably the best set of batsmen for both the red and white ball. At the same time, we are seeing an influx of young batters coming in. How do you see this combination of experienced seniors and talented youngsters?
We have tremendous talent within the team and a big bunch of talented cricketers who are coming up. We have a great setup in India A and India U19, so I feel this is a great time for me to be joining the senior side. We have a lot of competition and it augurs well for the team as we have more options. We have a lot of good cricketers coming through. We must identify the best ones, support them and give enough opportunities to establish themselves. I think with the kind of talent we have; we should do really well.
A lot of chatter has been about India’s No. 4 and the next 50-over World Cup is only in 2023. Is that a big issue at this stage or there are other immediate targets that we should be looking at?
It is not just about the World Cup. It is one slot (we must look at). The middle-order in one-day is not doing well and we must, of course, sort it out. Shreyas Iyer has done well in the last couple of games and we also have Manish Pandey. These two guys have done very well in domestic cricket and with India A. These are the batters who are capable of doing the job and I have no doubt about it in my mind. It is a matter of getting it right at the top level. We need to back them and provide them with the right preparations so that they can be there for a longer time. They have enough talent in them to do well.
The other area of concern is the opening partnership in Tests. We have options and there is healthy competition. We need to find a way for them to be more consistent.
Being a former selector, you have interacted with most of the players. Tell us about your working relationship with the coaching staff?
We have a great set of people in the coaching staff. I have the advantage of knowing them as I was a national selector. It gave me many opportunities to know them and work with all of them. I know the players and have worked with them at some point in time. I have worked with Mr Ravi Shastri, Mr B. Arun and Mr R Sridhar and also Mr Virat Kohli. I know the batters personally and share a good rapport with all of them. It is now about taking it to the next level.