CHENNAI: It’s the eve of a big day — the final of the Under-19 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in March this year. The Indian team gets together for a crucial meeting.
Over to the side’s coach Dav Whatmore: “We set the clock forward to the next day. We visualise the next day. It is action time. We are in the final. We make some costly errors. The opposition catches up towards the end. We eventually lose the final.”
Whatmore continues, “Then we set the clock to the present time. I ask the boys how bad would it feel to come so close and then lose? To see the other captain holding the trophy, the media rushing to the other team for interviews. I then ask the boys whether they would like to go through the losing feeling.”
The ploy worked. India won the final, surmounting South Africa’s challenge.
“The boys hated the spectre of defeat. That motivated the side, eventually the motivation has to come from within. I want my boys to walk through a brick wall, through cut glass,” reveals Whatmore. Not for nothing is he known as the master of the mind game. The famous coach, now the Director of Operations in the National Cricket Academy (NCA), was in Chennai to participate in the Academy’s Level ‘A’ coaching programme. He shared his time with The Hindu.
Whatmore is pleased about the young talent in the country but feels that fast tracking youngsters to first class cricket can be a double-edged sword.
“It can send the wrong kind of message. In Australia, for instance, a youngster has to be exceptionally good to break into the Sheffield Shied side,” he says.
Whatmore says the Indian under-19 cricketers are as good or better that their counterparts in other parts of the world, but adds that players from Australia or South Africa develop faster into the next stage because of a stronger domestic competition.
“We need to strengthen the quality of domestic cricket here. This is of primary importance. Only then would we have the kind of depth that Australia has,” he says.
Focussing more on Ranji Trophy, its duration and the pitches could be critical to India’s future.