The challenges of coaching Mizoram

P.V. Shashikanth reflects on the transition from Karnataka to the north-east state as head coach.

Former Karnataka coach P.V. Shashikanth’s love for challenges took him to Mizoram in 2018-19 season.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Mizoram suffered a crushing 159-run defeat against Bengal in its Syed Mushtaq T20 opener at the Barabati stadium here on Thursday.

But head coach P. V. Shashikanth remains upbeat about the challenges ahead, admitting that it will take time before teams from the north-east leave a mark. Sportstar caught up with him after the match.

How tough was the transition from coaching an elite Karnataka side to a newbie like Mizoram?

It is a different challenge altogether. When you are coaching teams like Karnataka, your job mostly entails man-management but with rank beginners like Mizoram, you have to start with the basics. We have got good guest cricketers like Taruwar Kohli, who other players can learn a lot from, by watching how they go about their batting and bowling.

With the domestic season drawing to a close, what's the roadmap for Mizoram going forward?

The idea is to try and identify talents at the under-16, 19 and 23 levels. It's a lengthy process which will obviously take time, at least five to six years before a solid team is in place. These guys play a lot of cricket back home but most of it is T20. They are not used to playing four and five-day cricket. We need the boys to keep playing more home and away matches in all formats. That kind of exposure will hold them in good stead. The team is still in its infancy but I feel we are heading in the right direction.

Mizoram lost seven of its eight group matches in the Ranji Trophy. Did the losses frustrate you at any point?

It was difficult at first because when you are used to winning games at the competitive level, starting from scratch is tricky but as a professional coach, I love challenges. With these first-timers, you learn new things every day and sometimes, it's just brushing up what you've learnt in the past. My focus has been on developing these boys. The challenge is to match their wavelength and try and help them become better players. There are hiccups along the way but that's the way it is.

And just how well equipped is the team behind the scenes?

We have some efficient support staff members working with us who make my job easier. When you are monitoring an elite team, you have a bowling, fielding and a batting coach too at your disposal. Here, we don't have that, so guys like Suhas Pawar (trainer) who has earlier worked with Vidarbha and Baroda cricket teams, are a huge plus. Then we have a physio from Jammu and Kashmir [Karan Nayyar], so all that has done wonders for the team's overall fitness.