Former Rajasthan Royals (RR) star Swapnil Asnodkar has heaped praise on Royal Challengers Bangalore's Suyash Prabhudessai, saying that the young Goa batsman is a "confident and fearless" cricketer. He added that the experience of playing under Indian skipper Virat Kohli will greatly help Prabhudessai.
In the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) auction held earlier this year, RCB picked Suyash Prabhudessai, who became the fourth Goa player to be part of the prestigious T20 tournament. Swapnil Asnodkar, Shadab Jakati and Saurabh Bandekar are the other three from the state to have been selected in the IPL.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Swapnil Asnodkar opened up on Prabhudessai's style and approach, having worked with the youngster as part of the Goa U-23 team. The 37-year-old also spoke about a variety of other topics, such as RR's inspired run to the IPL 2008 title and his decorated first-class career.
"I had him [Suyash Prabhudessai] in my first year as a coach (U-23 One-Dayers at Uttarakhand). He was the captain of the team, and we did really well under him. I had a close look at him, and I was really impressed with his hunger and the way he prepares himself. I could relate my cricketing journey with him," Swapnil Asnodkar revealed.
When asked if he had any special words of advice for Prabhudessai, being an IPL veteran himself, Asnodkar replied in the affirmative and highlighted the strengths of his pupil's game.
"Yes, I had a word with him a few days back. He said he's enjoying the atmosphere at the moment. Having Virat Kohli as captain is the icing on the cake. If he gets an opportunity, I'm sure he'll do well. He's a confident, fearless guy who backs himself. I've told him to be himself and not try to imitate others," Swapnil Asnodkar continued.
After walking away from all forms of cricket last year, Swapnil Asnodkar has his eyes set on giving back to the game in the coaching department. He recently completed the Fast Track Level 2 program offered by the NCA, along with statemate Shadab Jakati.
Interestingly, NCA head Rahul Dravid recently made the program available to international cricketers and domestic cricketers who've played more than 75 first-class matches. Asnodkar thanked Dravid for the initiative, which he says has helped his coaching dreams immensely.
"As a coach, I would like to give this experience to my players and put them in a good position to face the music. Now, we've been given three months' time to prepare and implement what we learnt. I would like to thank Rahul Dravid, the NCA, the BCCI and state associations for this great initiative," Swapnil Asnodkar stated.
Although he didn't have any formal experience at the time, Asnodkar was appointed the coach of Goa's U-23 team in 2019. Now, with his newfound coaching expertise, he aims to add even more value to a team that desperately needs a turnaround in fortunes.
"When I took up the coaching role, it was solely due to my playing career, as I didn't have any coaching experience. But now, I'm in a very good position, both technically and otherwise, to handle players and teams. This camp will definitely boost my coaching career, and we are thankful for whatever we've learnt from people at the NCA. The more you do it, the better you get. It's now upto us to see how much time we devote to this, which will in turn help the players," Swapnil Asnodkar proclaimed.
"All good things have to come to an end" - Swapnil Asnodkar on being dropped by Goa
Ahead of the 2018-19 domestic season, the Goa Cricket Association made the tough decision to drop their stalwarts - Shadab Jakati, Saurabh Bandekar and Swapnil Asnodkar - and move towards a younger team for the future. The decision came as a shock to fans of the state team, who felt that these domestic legends had been disrespected.
But Asnodkar understood why the decision had to be made, although he found it tough to accept early on, and moved on to coaching. He illustrated that he decided it was time to write the next chapter of his life after waiting for the call that never came for over a year.
"I hadn't been part of the team for one year, so I thought it was best to move on. Now, I want to give something back to the game so I thought about coaching. Initially, I was upset and hurt. I was 34 when I played my last year of cricket for Goa. One thing I've realized is that all good things have to come to an end. It was a difficult decision for me to accept. I kept training in the hope that I will get a call next year," Asnodkar disclosed.
Loyalty is a virtue Swapnil Asnodkar holds close to his heart, and he decided to give back to the state of Goa in other aspects. He remains thankful to the Goa Cricket Association, which has given him opportunities not only as a player but as a coach as well.
"But they made up their plans to focus on the youngsters, and I understood that it was high time to move on. I couldn't just be with the hope that they'll pick me someday, and keep wasting their time. So I immediately switched to coaching. Whether you're playing or coaching, you're giving something to the game and to the state. I took it in a positive way," Swapnil Asnodkar asserted.
Swapnil Asnodkar on the problems ailing Goa cricket at the moment
The Goa cricket team hasn't produced consistent results in domestic cricket over the last few years. In the 2021 white-ball season, the side recorded three wins in five Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy games and one win in five Vijay Hazare Trophy games, failing to qualify in both tournaments.
Swapnil Asnodkar outlined the problems that exist in Goan cricket right now, and expressed hope that the team works towards a solution in the immediate future.
"The problem in Goan cricket right now is that we don't play enough games. I played ten years of cricket (D.Y Patil) in Bombay, and that helped me maintain my confidence and sharpened my skills. When I was part of the team, I was the only one who was playing outside Goa. This is one point I will always stress on - if you get the opportunity to play outside, you will come to know your own standard. I hope in the coming years, we set the record straight," Swapnil Asnodkar said.
Asnodkar spoke about his own playing career, where he was the only player from Goa who was able to get valuable exposure and experience by featuring in matches outside the small coastal state.
"When I played in Mumbai, I played against all the big names - Rohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Pankaj Singh, Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar. All these players featured in that league, and I learnt a lot from the stalwarts of Indian cricket. Our players' performance will increase if they get the same experiences, especially in red-ball cricket," revealed Swapnil Asnodkar.
The Goa team is yet to fill the void created by the aforementioned dropping of senior players, and Asnodkar pointed out the same.
"Shadab [Jakati], me, Sagun [Kamat] and Saurabh [Bandekar] are now not part of the team, and it's tough to fill that void. I'm not saying they won't be able to, the time will come. But immediately it's difficult to cope when 4-5 main players are not part of the team," Swapnil Asnodkar said.
"Regret that I couldn't play for India is there, but I'm very happy with what I achieved overall" - Swapnil Asnodkar
Swapnil Asnodkar retired from all forms of cricket last year, but has a number of impressive records next to his name. He holds the record for the highest score by an uncapped Indian player on IPL debut - 60 off just 34 balls against the Kolkata Knight Riders in 2008. The Porvorim native is also the only player from Goa to have played for India A.
"The first IPL game, it was a dream debut. Records are meant to be broken, but it's been 12 years and the record of highest score on debut is still next to my name. Last year, [Devdutt] Padikkal was so close to it but he didn't break it. Everyone talks about IPL and first-class cricket, but no one talks about India A," quipped Asnodkar.
But the achievements don't stop there. With nine wins under his belt, Swapnil Asnodkar is Goa's most successful captain. And while there is a tinge of regret that he couldn't go on to represent the Indian cricket team, a storied career filled with happy moments and enviable milestones is more than enough for the 37-year-old.
"In my cricketing journey, the regret that I couldn't play for India is there. But overall, I'm very happy with what I've achieved. I've got a lot of runs, and importantly, the happiness has been there throughout. We [Goa] qualified for the knockouts for the first time under my captaincy in 2008 and then again in 2014," Swapnil Asnodkar stated.
"We won the South Zone T20 Championship and we qualified for the Super League. Unfortunately, we missed a finals spot by 0.001 net run rate. When Goa qualified for the knockouts of the One-Dayers, I was the captain again. As a cricketer, this journey has been fantastic and I've been very happy to contribute," he continued.
In line with the theme of giving back to the game, Asnodkar has one final piece of advice for aspiring cricketers. He poignantly signed off by giving his two cents on what youngsters can do to get the best out of themselves.
"I keep saying this to youngsters - 'Don't worry about the fear of failure'. It is always something that will hold players back. Everyone is bound to get out, 0 or 100, whatever is. But if you express yourself in the best possible way, the chances of success are very high," Swapnil Asnodkar concluded.