Sanath Kumar: A journeyman coach with a 'Midas Touch'
New Delhi, Feb 20 (PTI) There are two worlds in Indian cricket and they are mutually exclusive.
The first is the one where the Virat Kohlis, Rohit Sharmas, Ravi Shastris and the IPL exist amid insane fan following, eye popping money, life in fast lane and everything that one aspires.
Then there's another parallel universe where cricket is played as seriously but followed by just a few. This world has the Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The cricket here is played in front of mostly empty stands, where there could be a few stray dogs (as the joke goes), and fewer mediapersons in most of the centres.
And this is the world where one finds someone like K Sanath Kumar -- a quiet backroom worker, preparing young cricketers for greater challenges without thinking about any greater incentive.
The 55-year-old Kumar is one among those innumerable journeyman coaches, who are trying to help some of the lower rung first-class teams command respect from the 'Domestic Dadas' like Delhi, Mumbai or Karnataka.
Having coached minnows Assam to Ranji Trophy semi-final in 2015-16 season, Kumar has now delivered for another Plate group team Andhra Pradesh, guiding it to the quarter-final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Andhra will take on Delhi in one of the quarter-finals on Thursday.
His knack of delivering results with weaker state teams has made Kumar a known name in the domestic circuit.
"It's all about instilling self belief in the players that they are by no means inferior to any player from the top states. In all these years of coaching, I have realised one thing -- there isn't much difference in skill and talent level between a player from Karnataka and Andhra," Kumar told PTI during an interaction.
"At the first-class level, the difference between a good team and an average team is mindset. That's where I come into play. My job is to ensure that they don't suffer from inferiority complex," Kumar said.
Kumar has coached a star-studded Karnataka team and can easily spot the difference.
"In Karnataka, you have so many international legends that a youngster coming through the system can look upto them. In Andhra, you only had MSK Prasad and Venugopala Rao in earlier times.
"When I came in, I saw that after a couple of poor sessions, they were ready to give up. I am proud that irrespective of the match situation, they have now learnt the art of not giving up easily. That's the secret behind Andhra's success this time, their will to fight," said Kumar.
Kumar said the first aspect he worked on after coming on board for Andhra was the players' fitness.
"...and then I got a good fielding coach in Subhadip Ghosh. Subhadip has now joined Delhi Daredevils. Our fielding standard has improved. On batting front, Hanuma Vihari and Ricky Bhui are our star performers."
So what's his advice to the players when they take on the likes of Rishabh Pant and Gautam Gambhir? "I have told them to be free of any pressure. There is nothing to worry. We will take each match as it comes."
The Indian cricket's upper tier is top heavy. Ravi Shastri, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar are looking after the senior team. Rahul Dravid, Abhay Sharma, Paras Mhambrey are in charge of the A team while Tushar Arothe looks after the women's team.
Does it get frustrating for a 55-year-old that there is hardly any incentive for the good results delivered by him? "Not at all," he said emphatically.
"I love this game too much and I am happy with whatever opportunities I have got. I don't coach first-class teams with an aim to get an India A or an NCA contract. You can't be a coach with that philosophy. But I agree perception plays a role in Indian cricket.
"In Australia, they don't look at the name of the coach but at his skills. One forgets that a great player need not be a great coach. He will not bat, bowl or field.
"His job is to correct the mistakes, for that you need understanding that even someone with not-so-distinguished-cricketing-achievements can possess. So again, the mindset needs to change," he concluded