The victory in the Buchi Babu tournament reinforces Coach Shaun Williams' belief that the young Maharashtra Ranji team has a promising future
Maharashtra doesn't boast of any star cricketer in its fold. For three seasons, it had stuck to its policy of having young, talented players, a move which didn't yield desired results. But, the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) was prepared to wait, confident that the team would find its bearings sooner than later.
The Buchi Babu all-India invitation tournament triumph in Chennai late last month (it defeated Kerala in the summit clash) has given the MCA a ray of hope.
The man-in-charge and coach of Maharashtra, Shaun Williams, feels it augurs well for the future. “Our objective is to build a good team where we can produce players capable of representing the country. The average age of the side is 18. We expected to reach the final here. The victory will surely help us play more confidently,” says the 41-year-old Australian, who took over the reins of coaching the State team in 2008-09.
A left-hand opening batsman and an off-spin bowler, who played for Victoria and the Northern Territories, Williams, an accredited Level III coach, has inculcated the importance of fitness in the team. “I agree that cricket is a skill-based game. You have to understand that your skills deteriorate with poor fitness. With fitness alone, and without skill, you can never play cricket. But if you are a fit cricketer, you get more consistent,” he says.
As far as fitness is concerned, Williams leads from the front. In fact, during the lunch break in the final of the Buchi Babu tournament, he would use the time to exercise. And as one who has played a key role as the Bangladesh under-19 coach, he knows the ways of youngsters. “Developing a young team is what I've done in the past. To build a good side is my goal. We are doing well at the moment,” he says. “They (the players) are beginning to understand the need to develop their own style.”
Williams worked as an assistant to Dave Whatmore when the latter was with the Bangladesh senior team for nearly five years. When Williams was looking for a coaching assignment in 2008, Whatmore put in a word to Ajay Shirke, president of the MCA. “I took it up because I thought it would be challenging,” says Williams.
“Communication is not a problem as cricket is a universal language. The fundamentals don't change,” he explains, insisting that winning the T20 BCCI one-day cricket tournament in 2010 was a major achievement during his tenure.
Being a young side full of possibilities, Williams says the players have the desire to learn, which he believes is a huge asset. “Getting relegated (in 2009-10) was a disappointment. Being in the Plate Division is no big setback. I am sure we'll do well. Take Rajasthan, which won the Ranji Trophy (2010-11) after being in the Plate,” he says. “We have some really good players such as batsmen Harshad Khadiwale and Chirag Khurana, skipper (wicket-keeper) Rohit Motwani, and left-arm medium pace bowler Samad Fallah.”
While Williams expresses happiness at the way the Buchi Babu tournament was organised, he is clueless about why sporting wickets are not prepared for domestic tournaments. “It would be nice to see some grass on the wicket. In Pune, I have seen grass on the wicket. If there is grass, there will be carry. We see grass being grown everywhere, except on the cricket pitch. Maybe, it is a different way of preparation here,” he says.
Williams, whose second term ends in 2013, knows there are no shortcuts to success, especially with a youthful side like his. But he believes his young crop of players will rise to the occasion.
Keywords: Shaun Williams