V.B. Chandrasekhar believes his role as Tamil Nadu’s cricket coach is all about give and take. He shares some of his hopes and dreams for the team in the years to come

“I wish I knew…” says V.B. Chandrasekhar, a touch disconcertingly, when asked what he brings to the table as Tamil Nadu’s new cricket coach, before a prankster’s chortle confirms he isn’t entirely serious.

For someone known to be a “toughie” — a reputation gained, he says, when he was the State’s chief selector because he tended to pull players up — VB is always up for a laugh, often at himself. It’s a rare quality, seen only in secure people. He’ll need both self-assurance and humour as he attempts to help Tamil Nadu end a Ranji Trophy drought that extends back to the 1987-88 season. (VB incidentally was a vital part of that triumph with 551 runs).

Encouraging performance

The start has been encouraging. A young State team won the Moin-ud-Dowla tournament in Hyderabad recently, defeating a strong Delhi side in a thrilling final. “It was absolutely lovely,” says VB.

“It was a revelation working with youngsters, seeing how their minds worked. Even the evenings (after play) were fantastic. I’m convinced that two-three years down the road, Tamil Nadu will be in a great place provided the priorities are right, and cricket for the State always comes first.”

VB asked his players to sign his shirt and write, anonymously, what they thought of the experience. “I’m happy I asked for it. Certain things came out of it that are going to help me.”

One of these things reaffirmed an instinct of his. “Watching in the dressing room, you can’t allow your body language to show that you’re in trouble. If an established star gets out and you think things are going to crumble — that’s a sad way of looking at things. It’s important to stay positive.”

Diverse experience

VB, who turned 51 in August, brings diverse experience to his job: he was a national selector during the Greg Chappell era; he has coached kids in his academy; he was instrumental in setting up the Chennai Super Kings; he has followed domestic cricket in his time as a commentator. But while he’s aware of how his past has enriched him, he’s keener on the present, on “starting with a clean slate”.

“I need to live in the moment as coach, and react, make mistakes and learn on the job,” he says. “It’s important that my cricketers also know I’m fallible. It’ll be a mistake to think I’m going to come in and make a sea change. The previous coaches — (W.V.) Raman, (Abdul) Jabbar — have worked hard on this side. I’ll be doing the little things, patching little things together.”

A lot will depend on how VB handles the stars — S. Badrinath, M. Vijay, Dinesh Karthik, L. Balaji, R. Ashwin. He’ll need to enable them to be at their best and manage matters when some of them aren’t available.

Working with the captain

“It’s not about calling the shots,” he says. “They don’t have to be told what to do, they know their responsibilities, but it’s important they don’t let up in intensity. It’s also important to work with the captain, it could well be Balaji, and get him to think with me and dispute certain things I say. Either I turn him around or he turns me around but our thinking needs to blend.”

Here too, his ability to keep it light will help: “I told them (the stars), ‘I don’t want any of you in the State side’, and one sort of looked at me with a raised eyebrow. ‘That’s because,’ I said, ‘I want to see you playing for India’.”

Coaching is difficult at the best of times, but VB thinks it’ll go all right. “You asked me what I bring to the table. But it’s also what I take from the table that’s important. From what I’ve seen, I think I’m in for a rocking time.”