IPL 2020: The biggest task is to motivate the players, says Muralitharan

Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling coach Muttiah Muralitharan feels the biggest challenge for the players will be to motivate themselves in the UAE conditions.

Muttiah Muralitharan and Shabaz Nadeem during a practice session.   -  Twitter/@SunRisers

Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling coach Muttiah Muralitharan feels the biggest challenge for the players will be to motivate themselves in different playing conditions in the United Arab Emirates, when the IPL gets underway on September 19.

“They (players) have been used to playing in front of huge crowds and such strong sides at home. But, here you will have to play in front of empty stands because of the pandemic,” 48-year-old Murali said during an online media interaction from Dubai on Tuesday.

“Yes, the biggest task for us is to motivate them and how to adapt to the conditions. It can be easy also as they have nothing else other than to focus on cricket, unlike if they were playing the IPL where you have so many other things to attend to,” the spin legend said.

“The pitches are bound to be different in all three venues this time around - some flat, some slow and some quick. Unless a lot of games are played on one particular wicket, there might not be too much help for the bowlers,” he said.

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The Sri Lankan spin icon also admits that every team has world-class spinners who are match-winners for their respective teams. “It is a misconception for the Indian media that only leggies can be successful in the T20 format. I believe the offies have better control. Ultimately it all boils down to how capable one is in a given situation,” Murali explained.

“We have a world class spin duo in Rashid Khan and Mohd Nabi and also some young spinning all-rounders,” he said. “Our spin department looks better for sure,” he added.

This time around, Trevor Bayliss has replaced Tom Moody as the head coach. Talking about the new coach, Murali said: “They are different individuals with different styles of functioning and thinking. We will see how the boys respond to the new ways of coaching of Bayliss, who has a terrific record with Sri Lanka, whom he guided to the 2011 World Cup final and then helped England win the World Cup last year.”

“I think the young talent will get a lot of opportunities this time around and that is the reason why we invested in it. There is nothing much a coach can do in such a short period (being there for IPL). We can’t change actions. Anyhow since they are good they are here in the team,” he said

“Essentially, we will be working to ensure the players' confidence is high,” he said.

On Mankading, Murali feels that umpire’s warnings would have been enough. “If an umpire feels that the non-striker or the bowler is taking unfair advantage, five penalty runs for the erring team should do. One such penalty will deter anyone from being involved in such things,” he said.

On IPL being conducted in a controlled environment, Murali believes that it has to go on since the franchises have spent a lot of money over the years and are in losses. “This is the time to go break-even. It is good for the players, for the cricket Boards and also for the public who need to shift from their mental fatigue by way of some entertaining cricket,” he said.

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Reflecting on the pandemic, the Sri Lankan great revealed life was normal for them back home except for a 45-day lockdown with zero Covid-19 cases now.

“Here in Dubai, I am feeling that I am back in a lockdown with all the bio bubbles around and so many precautions. But again, these are different and demanding situations needing extra precautionary measures and all of us have to follow for safety,” he explained. “It would have been nice if the IPL were to be in Sri Lanka,” he said with a smile.

He also admitted that the SRH middle-order was weak last season. “So we bolstered that department this time around with some exciting young talents who I believe will get their chances to prove a point or two,” Murali said. “It is great to have 20 players in the squad ready to go though only 11 can play in a match.”

Asked about who is the most dangerous batsman in contemporary cricket, Murali said he would not like to bowl to such dangerous batsmen in the T20 format though he would cherish facing them in Tests and ODIs. “Yes I would rate Kohli (Virat), Warner (David), Rohit (Sharma) as some of the most dangerous batters now and there are some exciting young talents like Rishabh Pant,” he said.

On the forthcoming India’s tour of Australia, Murali feels that the pitches would be more fast-bowler friendly - except may be at Sydney, where spinners might get some turn. “So, I don’t think it will be a battle between R. Ashwin and Nathan Lyon. Aussies have a pace attack which is better than many of the teams. Again, depends on which pace bowlers do well,” he concluded.

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