India's former fielding coach heaps praise on Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane
Trevor Penney, the former fielding coach of the Indian cricket team, named Ajinkya Rahane as the most improved fielder during his stint with the Men in Blue. Talking to Wisden India in an exclusive interview, the former Warwickshire cricketer was all praise for Virat Kohli as well, likening the 27-year-old to West Indies cricket legend, Sir Viv Richards.
Penney played second fiddle to Duncan Fletcher during their three-year spell with the Indian team and though he left in acrimonious circumstances – the BCCI initially sent him on a three-week leave following India’s disastrous tour to England in 2014, only to never call him back – the 47-year-old has fond memories of his time in the cricket crazy nation.
Revealing that Fletcher was the reason he decided to opt for the job, Penney shared his joy of working with some of the best cricketers in the world.
“He (Fletcher) was my first captain when I was 16 back in Zimbabwe. I was in Sri Lanka when Duncan called and asked me to go join him in India. I thought about if for 24 hours. I loved working in Sri Lanka, but this opportunity was too big to give up,” Penney said.
“I had a great time, I loved every minute of it. Working with Rahul (Dravid) and VVS (Laxman) and Harbhajan (Singh) and (Virender) Sehwag was fascinating anyway, (but) the best part about that was working with Virat (Kohli).”
Penney said that he has been keeping in touch with Kohli even after his departure and compared him to legends like Viv Richards and Muhammad Ali, the boxing great who passed away yesterday.
“I can’t think of anyone else, maybe Viv Richards, who just couldn’t wait to go out and bat, and make a hundred and win the game for your team … and then go out and do it. Virat has that. Like, Muhammad Ali. Supreme confidence, especially in that one-day format, where he has gone and chased some, hasn’t he? But, really, in all formats he’s turning out to be a superstar,” he said.
The biggest improvement I ever saw in a fielder is in Rahane: Penney
Asserting that practice really does make one perfect, Penney singled out Ajinkya Rahane as the most improved he has ever seen during his coaching career.
“The biggest improvement I ever saw in a fielder is Jinks, Ajinkya Rahane. My first year with the Indian team, he was the twelfth man most of the time. He was so motivated to improve all the time, both his batting and his fielding. And he turned himself into one of the best fielders in the world for sure. He is magic,” he said.
He also had words of praise for legends like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, saying that the two cricketers proved that age was no excuse to let one’s fielding standards dip.
“You just get a little bit slower and less effective. It’s not about lack of will. Sachin (Tendulkar) would be out the whole day trying different things. And Rahul would take slip catches for hours,” he said.
Penney said that though the standard of fielding has improved with plenty of T20 cricket being played all around the globe these days, he feels the levels of concentration on the field has taken a dip, especially in the slip cordon.
“You can only become a good fielder if you want the ball to come to you each time and you want to make a difference to your team. I think there are good fielders who can be great and great fielders who can be special, but it’s about desire. I think concentration levels have gone down for sure. I think there were many more better slip catchers in my era,” he said.