METRO PLUS

A new route to success

Former Test star Bharati Arun views his new assignment as coach of the Tamil Nadu cricket team as a challenge. He is determined to create a balanced squad that can elevate the image of State cricket.

OF RECENT origin is the role, and more importantly, the value of a cricket manager, a more glamorous reference to a coach. Almost in every layer, the concept is being applied and claims of success for the teams in enhancing the physical, mental and psychological framework of players are unanimous. It is difficult to imagine how a captain in the mould of Douglas Jardine, or even our own CK or Lala Amarnath, leave alone those stalwarts leaders of State cricket, such as C.P. Johnstone, GP. Gopinath or Kripal Singh would have viewed this breed of surrogate thinkers.

Not only has the idea of a cricket manager, apart from the official manager who looks after the administrative aspects involving the highly paid and temperamental cricketers at the national level during high voltage competitions, is perceived as a panacea , if the incumbent is of a foreign origin, as John Wright is with the Indian senior team, but the system has percolated to the State units as well.

Supporters of this line, quite predictably, assert that the captain, saddled as he is with so many pressures before and during the matches, gets that amount of extra input from the cricket manager or coach, who is usually a past player of repute. Time was when skippers such as Kripal Singh, Pataudi, Jaisimha and Venkatraghavan were thought of as remarkably endowed to chart out their own strategies both on and off the field with minimum or no assistance from a coach.

But competitive cricket today is assessed as far more complex, complicated and consumes a lot of energy, given the number of matches played at all levels. Therefore, units that can afford the luxury of hiring a former State or Test player into the specialised role do so as a matter of priority. Quite a few States have opted for this course, and, understandably, Tamil Nadu, where a lot of cricket is debated and dissected from an academic and professional trajectory, has pitched upon several of its eminent stars for this important post.

Joining the illustrious team this year for Tamil Nadu is the former Test star, Bharati Arun. With only a few days left for the State to begin its campaign in the Ranji Trophy, the 39-year old Arun, predictably, is busy with designing the blueprint for the team to face the rigours of competition. Naturally, the goal is to get back the Ranji Trophy.

Modest though are his credentials as a Test all-rounder, confined to just two matches against Sri Lanka in 1986-87, and a brace of one-dayers against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Arun's experience on the domestic circuit, most of all, at the State level, is immense.

The Ranji Trophy team at a practice session at the Guru Nanak College ground. Arun is seen far right -- Pict. by N. Sridharan.

The Ranji Trophy team at a practice session at the Guru Nanak College ground. Arun is seen far right -- Pict. by N. Sridharan.  

A competent medium pacer and an attacking batsman, Arun has an impressive record in first-class matches with a tally of 1652 runs with the 149 for South Zone against West Zone in the Duleep Trophy forming the high-water mark.

That Arun has as many as 110 wickets with an average of 32.44 in first class matches perhaps underscores the effervescence of his cricket and calibre. He claimed a hat-trick against Goa in 1986-87 and returned his best figures of six for 77 against Kerala in 1988-89.

At every stage of his career, be it as an all-rounder at the Venkatasubba Rao School, Santhome High School, and Adarsh Vidyala, and then with the Vivekanda College, Arun demonstrated his proficiency with bat and ball, inviting instant notice of the media. For three years from 1980, he figured for Young Men's Association and donned the Jolly Rovers colours for a period of 19 years in the senior division. These two decades plus involvement in city's premier league definitely gives Arun that insight and ingenuity to fashion a realistic programme aimed at giving the State outfit a sense of direction.

No one is more alive to the task in hand now more than Arun. At the moment, the state has no representation on the national team notwithstanding the fact of the TNCA is conducting the most professionally organised league and other tournaments almost at every layer. Even the few who made it to the national squad failed to retain their place for one reason or the other. Last year, Tamil Nadu fell against the eventual champion, the Railways in the quarter final of Ranji Trophy despite recording some excellent individual performances, highlighted by the batting of S.Sharath and bowling of L.Balaji.

Arun views his new assignment as a challenge that must be met squarely. "Tamil Nadu, as you will agree, is a very talented team but needs to combine well. All I will be doing is to create the right atmosphere as to effect all-round improvement, touching upon all aspects," he says. While conceding that the goal is to have a tilt at the Ranji Trophy, Arun is confident of players touching peak fitness under the trainer Basu and also gain immense benefit from yoga. "Not all players go through the same rigours. They are divided into three groups, and exercises are designed to suit the groups' requirements."

Arun is delighted by the response during the training sessions and is impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment from everyone. He stresses the fact that the strength lies in batting but points out the growing stature in the medium pace segment where Balaji and M.R.Srinivas will be the trump cards along with the talented bunch of medium fast bowlers, Vignesh, Tirukumaran and Ganapathy. He has a special word for the form and fitness of Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan.

Arun has effected a new routine to the training wherein each player goes through a simulated match situation in every aspect of the game than mere net practice in an allotted time.

The coach believes that proper guidance is the sine qua non for Tamil Nadu cricketers to stay put at the national level. He is as pained as any over the fact of Tamil Nadu players not keeping up their hard earned place in the Indian team unlike stars such as Venkatraghavan and Srikkanth, both of whom enjoyed the distinction of leading the country.

"It is my duty to see that the mistakes I made to lose my place in the Indian team are not repeated by those on the threshold of recognition at the national level."

More than that, Arun is optimistic that the lessons learnt at the Level II coaching conference in London last year under Test stars such as Terry Jenner and Rod Marsh will be of tremendous use in carrying out the onerous task as the coach. He acknowledges the invaluable time he spent along with John Wright, the present Indian-Kiwi coach, when Chemplast conducted the national training camp in which Arun was associated. He was impressed by the by the specialised aspects of training in fielding and running between wickets.

Determined to give the job a new orientation, a different dynamics and dimension not witnessed before, Arun is endeavouring to create a balanced squad that can court success and elevate the image of State cricket. All he needs is an element of luck, which seems to elude Tamil Nadu almost systematically, so to say.

And, small wonder that he begins the exercise with the blessings of all the aficionados of State cricket next week, praying for a divine dispensation.

S.THYAGARAJAN

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