'KKR youngsters will find it easy to communicate with Karthik'

As another edition of the Indian Premier League begins, Mike Horn, the professional adventurer is back for a short stint with Kolkata Knight Riders - a franchise, he was part of in 2012.

Mike Horn with young pacer Kamlesh Nagarkoti.   -  [email protected] Knight Riders

A round-the-world trip, a solo swimming expedition in the Amazon, and numerous adventure campaigns — for Mike Horn, that’s what life is all about.

Fondly known as ‘world’s greatest living man’, the 51-year-old South African-born Swiss professional explorer and adventurer, is a sought-after name in the sporting arena too.

Having had stints with India’s World Cup-winning cricket team in 2011, and Germany’s football team in 2014, which won the World Cup — Horn knows what it takes to bring out the best in champions.

And as another edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) begins, the explorer is back for a short stint with Kolkata Knight Riders — a franchise, he was part of in 2012.

In a free-wheeling chat with Sportstar on Saturday, Horn explains how the mind plays a key role in a long tournament like the IPL.

As someone, who has worked with the franchise in the past, how does it feel to be back at Kolkata Knight Riders?

It is always nice to be back. It is quite a new and fresh team that has a big fighting spirit. It is one of the youngest units as well, so it changes the dynamics of the team a little bit. To be able to come in and make the young players feel that they have a role to play, and making the seniors accept the young players is quite important at this stage of IPL.

This time, the team has quite a few junior players, who would be making their IPL debuts. How do you see this?

As Kolkata Knight Riders has invested in younger players, I think it is very important to make the young players feel integrated in the team. We know that these young players have never faced such big crowd before and will be under lot of pressure. So, to be able to make their mind and ease it a bit will be my job before the first match.

What would you be advising a young player like Kamlesh Nagarkoti or Shivam Mavi, or may be a Rinku Singh?

It is important to understand that these players have been selected for their skills, and that we are not asking for anything more from them. KKR has seen potential in these players and it is not to put pressure on these players but to allow them to play with a lot of freedom. That’s what makes Knight Riders such an amazing franchise because you do have the filling of the experience of the senior players, as well as the filling of the support of the coaching staff. These guys have a chance to perform on an amazing platform that is more a family than a franchise. I know everybody wants to win, and KKR is very competitive, but it is the competitive platform that allows the youngsters to grow. That is what makes it a special environment for the young players to be in.

Shivam Mavi with explorer and adventurer Mike Horn.   -  [email protected] Knight Riders

 

In your previous stint with KKR, the side was led by Gautam Gambhir. This time, it has a new captain in Dinesh Karthik. How would you differentiate the two captains?

I have worked with DK before at Mumbai Indians, and we have connected very well. I know Gautam since 2011 World Cup, I have also enjoyed working with him. It is very true that they are two different individuals who have one common role — to win the IPL. For DK it is a little different, because he has been with different franchises, he brings a lot of experience to the table. For him to share the experience and the knowledge, that adds to the value.

Read: All eyes on new skipper Karthik as KKR faces RCB

With Gautam, we won two IPLs, and he is someone who also has got lot of experience. May be, DK has more aggressive personality than Gautam. He is a guy who engages a lot with the players, where Gautam had a complete different leadership method. He was more calm, relaxed. They all have their values. Maybe, for the younger players it will be easier to communicate with a DK than may be, a Gautam. Definitely, Gautam and DK have proven that they are star players, and as captains, have knowledge to run the game in the IPL.

In a tournament like the IPL, only a few players get an opportunity to feature in the final eleven. How do you motivate the players who warm the bench?

I don’t think we need to motivate the players at all, because they are already quite motivated. The IPL has an amazing energy that the players feed on, and to have all these international players together, makes the tournament quite unique. On one side, some players need motivation, while others don’t. Most important aspect is to have a discipline. If you have a discipline, you can go much further than motivation. That discipline in training is what we need for preparation, to stay fit and to be able to play high intensity games one after the other.

It is not only a physical aspect, but at most of the time, it is also a psychological aspect. So, to get the mind right, you can have a successful campaign but it’s not only your physical skill. The physical skills of the players are more or less the only change that we can make in getting the mind right.

But there is a belief that challenges in an individual sport is much tougher than a team sport. Having worked with various sporting teams across disciplines, do you subscribe to the idea?

I worked with Germany football team in 2014 World Cup. That was a team sport. We say, cricket is a team sport, but actually, cricket is played by individuals that can make the difference. When you give somebody a ball or the bat, he feels quite lonely. To be able to make these guys go out and play with freedom is a task that psychologically a decision must be made by them. We worry a lot of times about things we cannot change, instead of worrying about things which we can change and are in our control. A lot of pressure mounts up on these guys because they worry about things that are impossible for them to change. They have got to get rid of that, and open their mind a little bit so that they can able to focus on things like playing better and scoring runs.

How is that possible?

Nobody is asking them to deliver more, all they need to do is deliver what they have done in the past, and in that way, the pressure drops. The decision making lies with senior players who have been in these challenging environments for long time. So let the seniors take a little more responsibility. The moment you take away the decision making aspect from the young players, they play with more freedom. All these aspects are very important in building a team. The amount of energy and discipline you put in brings in the dynamics to a side. The team dynamics in KKR allows you to feel at home. And when you feel at home, you play with freedom.

You spoke about expectations and staying positive. Now, with Steve Smith and David Warner facing one-year suspensions, how can they remain motivated in this dark phase of their career?

If we look at what happened with Warner, Smith and Bancroft in South Africa, it is not the first time (that something like this has happened). I think Cricket Australia wanted to kill the problem very quickly by putting severe punishment on the players. If I was Warner, I would have definitely changed my attitude. I would try and learn from situation like this and become an example for the people in the future. This way, we can teach the younger players that cheating is not a solution. Sometimes we say that winning is not everything in life, but it is the only thing. We have to keep the game fair. If you want to become bigger than cricket, then that’s a wrong attitude.

Then, what’s the way out?

The players have to stay the icons of the game. If you have honest, successful and clean career, then you will be remembered in the past. I know Warner, Smithy and Bancroft have been banned, but I would have used this time very positively and would have started a campaign where we could clean up cricket. They have been punished; they know what they have been experiencing. What they are experiencing must be communicated in a way to all cricket-playing countries. And now they also have perfect time to better their skills. If they have bit of injuries, they can recover now. They can even start integrating their career as a cricketer. It can have a very positive return for the guys.