Fulfilling destinies and instilling belief: The nuances of coaching a young T20 side
It indeed is a happy discovery for me to find out the secret of happiness engulfing my life lately as a professional coach is to merge my tiny little achievements as an Indian cricketer and to use those experiences and channelise it towards coaching a willing set of young lads in the ongoing second edition of the now famous Tamil Nadu Premier League 2. To have made it to a second final in as many years is nice but the crowning glory would be to emerge as champions.
This journey so far is fulfilling, as teaching is after all re-learning. Being a guide to the destiny of very many young hopefuls is soul satisfying, given a million lamps could be lit fresh without losing the glow of the original lamp from which all light emanates. To learn from my own career and to offer solutions when confronted with similar situations has been handy as I have realised it helps if one is a "has been" with a malleable mindset and an insatiable appetite to grow and learn as an individual.
It has been my second year on the road in TNPL, in this truncated version, i.e T20. The helplessness of a coach is heightened in this frenetic hustle and bustle format, for a coach's role ceases after the players get past the white line and lest they are gripped with white line fever, they won't be in a position to translate their ploys into action.
Therein lies the key role of a proactive coach, who spends and plunges into careful and methodical preparation. To ingrain into a young players psyche the old motto "fail to prepare, be prepared to fail" is a ceaseless effort. To enable the lads to dissect and trisect their own games to the bare bones by creating a culture of knowledge transfer and to have a cocooned climate of introspection is but an elementary pre-requisite.
Grooming a set of neophytes, who have barely cut their teeth as a fledgling professional, calls for deft handling with velvet gloves, as some temperaments can be fragile and ought to be handled with care. This is where the expertise as an ex-player kicks in. It is so much different than being a coach of a well-oiled unit like a national side or an IPL franchise, where players come with banks of experience, and, if anything, need only a tiny nudge or a reinforcement of the game plan to get them back on track.
Here with these set of beginners (well, most of them!) the challenge is to mould them as if they were pieces of clay and to alleviate their performance disorders, anxiety levels aside, from having a well thought out preparatory plan in place. With so much technological advancements, one also needs to be wise and switched on in terms of being in sync with the times.
The secret I guess is to make the young lads believe in themselves and help them understand their skill sets and game better with a friendly hand over their shoulder apart from very many encouraging words, no, sentences! The constant endeavour is to nurture and feed a happy dug out, soaking up the processes and to help the boys emerge better cricketers with each passing day. Not been easy this ride, never must it be either for complacency doesn't take a side too far.
Although I was a reluctant coach to begin with, the fact that I have plunged headlong gives me an immense sense of satisfaction and despite a propensity to grow grey a tad quickly, with fewer nails on certain other frayed occasions. One sincerely admits that this extension from being an Indian player to this current avatar is beyond explanation. Facing fear, it goes after all, and to get the lads bound as a unit with clear communication lines with the support staff is another core area, with scope given for space to think out-of-the-box.
That the lads have been forthcoming so far is encouraging for there is no greater delight as a sportsman to carry out their potential and plans to fruition, for after all, one plays to win and if this winning habit is created and nourished, the dugout can be a happy camp.
Not that a team is always going to win all the time, and it is in such situations that a coach has to dig deep into his reservoir to create a situation, where players dust themselves down and invest in the process with laser like focus.
The value of defeat is that of a diamond and not to be defeated in spirit is victory in itself. Despite instilling a generic mentality in the troops of not to look back often without an idea to learn and grow, one can't help but reflect on the agonising one-sided loss in last year's TNPL. The time is here and now, to give that score sheet against Albert TUTI Patriots, the reigning champs and a fierce bete noire, a giant in this format, a timely course correction, by having their number for a change!
Now that would be crowning the lads with Glory. Bring it on! Can't wait for Tomorrow!