A former India women’s international, Nooshin Al Khadeer, is a familiar name in the coaching circuit. Having started her coaching career years ago with age-group teams, the former India off-spinner eventually took charge of the senior sides - guiding the Railways team to two titles in the 2021-22 season.
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She was also the coach of the Supernovas, which won the Women’s T20 Challenge in Pune earlier this year. But for the last few months, Nooshin has been busy coaching the India U-19 women’s team and is preparing the youngsters for the inaugural edition of the Women’s U-19 T20 World Cup, to be held in South Africa in January 2023.
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The team is currently playing a five-match T20 series against New Zealand U-19 in Mumbai, and Nooshin has made it a point to keep things simple and ensure that the young guns aren’t under any pressure.
In a chat with Sportstar, the coach talked about the team’s plan leading to the T20 World Cup and also touched upon the importance of role clarity among the players.
How challenging or different has it been to coach a U-19 team as compared to a senior side?
When I started my coaching career, it was with an U-16 team. So, for a good five-six years, I have spent a lot of time coaching the U-16 and U-19 teams, and that has progressed me into the senior team.
Once I started off with the senior teams, I would often be part of the National Cricket Academy Zonal camps and those camps helped me because they more or less comprise U-19 players. So, I was kind of aware of the players who were coming up. It kept me in the mould where I was connected to the seniors and the juniors.
These young players will be playing in an ICC event for the first time. And in a long tournament, there could be times when the players might make mistakes or not get the desired results. Being the coach, how do you handle such situations?
As long as you are going to keep things very simple with them and make them understand about their role in the team, that would help. Too many inputs or too many strategies don’t work out well. What I would say is that this lot has become smarter with the kind of exposure the BCCI has given. We had the Zonal tournaments; the Challengers are coming up…
From what I saw in 2019 during the ZCA to now, I have observed that with the kind of exposure that the media has given them, the players are quite aware and smarter. Role clarity and keeping things simple will work for us.
If you could elaborate on what you mean by being ‘smarter’?
If something needs to be conveyed to a player, they understand why it is being conveyed. They have that smartness and in terms of switching to different roles, they are quite good at adapting things. That journey has started off with these players and that’s the kindness of smartness I am talking about.
Given the fact that the conditions in South Africa will be different, how do you plan to utilise the next couple of months in terms of training?
We understand that we will be playing in South Africa and the conditions will be different and that’s why we are getting off with medium pacers coming and bowling. Hurley (Gala) has done really well. Then, we have a young girl Shabnam (MD) coming in and doing well. So, the focus is on giving a lot of opportunities to these girls, so that they are prepared that at any point in time and on any given day, whenever they are needed, they should be mentally ready to play the game. Opportunities in these games will help them understand things better in terms of how and when they need to perform. As coaches, we are quite clear in explaining roles to them and they are living up to that.
How are you dealing with the mental aspect of the players?
We are keeping things very simple and not focusing on too many inputs or putting them under stress. We want them to realise that let bygones be bygones. No player wants to enter the ground and perform badly, it’s just a bad day. We are keeping it very, very simple and not complicating things because at this level, jo aap bataoge, woh samjhenge woh cheez and jo nahi bata na hai, let’s not try to explain that now. They will learn it in due course of time.
As a coach, what has been your learning so far?
Understanding different kinds of players. All of them are unique in whatever the style they have, barring their proficiency. So, it’s about understanding those and also having a lot of patience, because that’s needed at this level. Idea is to keep things simple because this is one aspect that we need to start learning as coaches - to deal with different categories and age groups.