Interview with Trinbago Knight Riders coach Simon Helmot: I will be happy to dance with SRK and Bravo
The 44-year old Simon Helmot happens to be one of the more sought after specialist T20 coaches in the world currently, after having successfully coached teams in the three major global T20 leagues.
Helmot, who is among the very few to have had an illustrious coaching career in spite of not having played cricket at the highest level, is the head coach of the Trinbago Knight Riders in the ongoing Caribbean Premier League 2016. It was with the same team, sans some big names, that he won CPL 2015 – and later went on to have a triumphant run at the Indian Premier League as assistant to Tom Moody in the Sunrisers Hyderabad setup.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda ahead of the Knight Riders’ third match, Helmot speaks on a variety of topics - ranging from his team’s recent come-from-behind win against the Barbados Tridents to a potential dancing encounter with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
Thanks for speaking to us Simon. It must've been a bit disappointing to lose the opening game but you managed to come back really well with that record partnership between Hashim Amla and Dwayne Bravo, your reactions?
Very pleasing to see that record partnership between Hashim Amla and captain Dwayne Bravo. When you are for four for 20 in the fourth over, things were looking quite grim. But the thing that we lost our last wicket in the 120th ball of the innings was extraordinary.
To get a score of 170 was a remarkable effort and then to defend it as well as we did, I was very pleased with the output. Quite difficult, the conditions here in Trinidad - quite unlike to what we confronted last year. There's been a lot of rain and with the rain, at night time, the humidity leads to a lot of moisture on the grass - wouldn't call it dew - but the moisture makes it very difficult to handle the ball in the second innings.
And both the times we have lost the toss and been asked to bat first. To be able to defend a target of 160-170 under those conditions with our bowling unit - we weren't able to do so in the first game unfortunately - it's proved to be very successful, and our mission remains to repeat what we did last night.
As a coach, you are entering the CPL on the back of a successful IPL campaign with the Sunrisers Hyderabad, and a stint as the High-Performance Coach of Bangladesh awaits. Do you feel any pressure to perform right now considering there are a lot of expectations from you?
There are always expectations on a coach, how you handle the pressure decides everything. There are always players and there'll always be players in a team but coaches at different times can be reallocated.
It's not pressure, I really looked forward to this season having gained a lot of confidence from a successful IPL and also having had a successful campaign last season in the CPL. This is a new side though, with a new side comes new players, new relationships, new setups, and I will say that the relationship we have with the ownership has been very seamless and hopefully we can keep continue to grow and develop.
But pressure is what you put upon yourself, you know the score before you enter the game!
Speaking of new players, you have two high profile additions this year in Hashim Amla and Brendon McCullum - how do you see them adding value to the squad?
Experience, experience and more experience. [They are] two wonderfully talented cricketers, vastly different ways in which they approach and play their game - it's still very measured and relaxed. A bit like our chief mentor and past player, Jacques Kallis, they are a calming influence on our younger players.
I think it's just wonderful to see the interaction between players of different nationalities in our team and it's great to see that alongside the advice, the experience and the nurturing that each player gives one another.
After last night's game, in one corner of the room were Kallis and McCullum talking about the tactics and techniques of batting. And these are extraordinary conversations which not only I, as a coach benefit from but also the younger players.
You are someone who hasn't played at the highest level but carry a great reputation as a coach. For some people, having such big names in the room might seem intimidating, but do you find it a relief to have a lot of technical expertise around you at all times?
Sure, I think you always try and surround yourself with people who might be better than you in particular areas. I haven't got the Test match runs, wickets or catches as Jacques Kallis, but to have him working with me is fantastic.
I pride myself on good work ethic, ensuring that I run a program in which players are not only going to be continually challenged but also feel comfortable in a family environment. I have realised that players aren't overly concerned about your playing history, but they are concerned what knowledge - both strategically and technically - that you can [use] to add value to their game.
To be able to have others, players or fellow coaches, to add value to your program and what the team can commit to, I think that's a fantastic attribute.
Barring a single substantial break, you pretty much play back-to-back games all throughout CPL 2016. How do you as a coach ensure that players are up and ready in such a tight tournament?
Being mentally and physically refreshed is the way to do it. There's no point trying to cram for an exam now when you have back-to-back games, if you don't know how to play a cover drive, there's no point trying to learn for tonight's game.
It's important that the guys are mentally and physically in good condition, that they are aware of the conditions and the opposition they will be confronting and that they are in full control of their own game.
What I focus on pre and post each game are conditions we are playing in, the opposition we will be facing and most importantly, I make sure people are very clear about their roles.
The Knight Riders team is becoming a global brand with representation in both the IPL and CPL, do you think such cross-league ownership is going to strengthen T20 leagues as a commercial property?
I think so, as long as the central ownership is strong like the KKR brand is - they have been a very successful franchise in the IPL - this is something we are going to see something more and more of.
Final question, your owner, superstar Shah Rukh Khan has been featuring in the 'Play Fight Win' promotional campaigns for your team. If you do get a chance to meet him, are you planning to shake a leg with him?
Absolutely, we've got a lot of stars on the stage and the screen. Here we've got the 'Champion' Dwayne Bravo, he's a number one smash hit and we have got the most popular and famous Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan...so I'll just be happy to be dancing in their wake.