When Indian Premier League (IPL) is discussed, it’s the notoriety that gobbles up the megabytes and air time. It’s true that the league had its share of revelries. But the tournament is not only about parties, glamour, auctions and strategic time-outs. It is also a ground for former cricketers to return to their craft.
The IPL pool had the resources to pull in internationals like John Buchanan, John Wright and Trevor Bayliss; and even maintain player-turned-coaches such as Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis.
Ahead of the new season and a brand new auction, Sportstar spoke to a few Indian coaches on their second innings and the experience of building an empire with the internationals.
Vijay Dahiya — who represented India in 19 ODIs and two Tests — assisted Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) from 2009 to 2015. The 44-year-old elucidated how the tournament sharpened his coaching skills.
“If you interact with the players and coaches you work with, it’s always an experience. I have worked with Dav Whatmore, who has won a World Cup, and then, there was Wasim Akram, and Bayliss. You learn different styles, how they function and what makes them different from how we work,” said Dahiya.
“There is so much to learn when you have big names in the dressing room. You can pass on that knowledge when you are coaching a domestic team for Ranji Trophy. It’s a wonderful thing. I believe a lot of Indian players, who have been working for a long time in the IPL, are ready to go to the next stage,” he added.
Lakshmipathy Balaji is one of those players who swung both ways and got breakthroughs. He claimed the first hat-trick of the tournament for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in 2008. He moved to KKR in 2011 as a player, to return as bowling coach last season. This season, Balaji is returning to his roots.
The newly-appointed bowling coach of CSK said, “It’s great to be a part of the set up. So many players coming to India is a good thing for Indian cricket. One of my best memories would be winning the IPL for the first time in the third edition. What I like the most about IPL is that it is always evolving. The game offers more opportunities these days,” said Balaji, who also represented India in 30 ODIs and eight Tests from 2002-2009.
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Balaji seconded Dahiya on how the tournament provides a coaching clinic for all mentors. “It is all about learning only, be it as a coach or a player. You always keep learning from the game. There will be good and bad experiences, but one must keep improving,” he added.
Understanding the lows
Avinash Vaidya, the former Karnataka ‘keeper-batsman, feels the oldies can also relate to the lows of a player and pump him up.
The 51-year-old, who is currently the General Manager, Team and On-Field Cricket Operations (Royal Challengers Bangalore), said, “IPL is such a high intensity tournament, filled with personalities of varied sensitivities; having to accept, respect and manage players from different backgrounds is the biggest learning in itself. As a former player, it helps to relate to a player’s lows as well. As a professional, the endeavour is always to ‘keep it simple’ and make it easy for the unit to go out and do what they are best at.”
Vaidya thanked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for throwing open an array of opportunities for the veterans. “I feel the IPL and BCCI have provided a great career opportunity to realise your potential. We are so much better off, as this position has helped us stay connected to the game.
"As cricketers, we play a minor role in identifying and nurturing potential talents, who may go on to serve the country. But our role is more important in terms of player behavior; helping them play in true spirit and inculcate the need for ethical practices in their minds. The tournament can be quite vulnerable given the game and big bucks,” he reasoned.
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Lalchand Rajput, now a celebrated coach for bringing up the Afghanistan national team, was a part of the Mumbai Indians set-up in the first season. He remembered the tough times, but today, he quotes them as ‘good memories’. “So much happened in the inaugural edition; Sachin (Tendulkar) was not available for a few matches, that we lost and then, Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth got into the slap controversy. But overall, it was a great experience. If you can come back and return your expertise to the game you love, nothing is better than that,” he said.
“If a team needs me, I am available too. IPL changes the atmosphere of the dressing room with so many international players. As a coach, we never had the chance to meet internationals, as you would either be with the Indian team or a state team,” added Rajput, who played two Tests and four ODIs for India (1985-1987).
The 56-year-old also praised the Afghanistan cricketers, who have thrown their hats into the auction ring. “I think they are very talented and T20 suits their style of play. Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi already made a name for themselves. Zahir Khan is a prospect too. IPL may give birth to role models in Afghanistan. It will boost future players.”
Over to the hammer.
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