Street cricket ball for slip catching — Abhay Sharma's method

The India A fielding coach reveals how using pseudo leather balls — collected from Australia, West Indies and Lucknow — has improved fielding among Indian cricketers.

Representative Image: Abhay Sharma’s vision is to shape the supply line to the senior team.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Ringmaster, techie, inventor of props — there are no better adjectives to describe the cleverness of Abhay Sharma. The India A fielding coach worships training, and at times, comes up with innovative techniques to improve the craft.

Ahead of the second four-day game against South Africa A at the Platinum Oval here, he took the field at sharp 10 am and continued the regular drills. After a few throwdowns with wicketkeeper K. S. Bharat, Sharma spared a few minutes to tell Sportstar the significance of being fit from the A stage and how he collected pseudo leather balls to improve slip catching.

“The ball wobbles a lot at slips. I am using balls that wobble more than cricket balls. They are of different colours. This ball doesn’t hurt as much as leather balls but it wobbles a lot,” he says.

Abhay Sharma (left, seen here with Shubman Gill) strives to make players a "complete package" at the international level.

Sharma handpicked the balls from Australia, West Indies and the latest is from Lucknow. “I was in Lucknow and I saw a ball being used in street cricket. So I picked it. It is not a leather ball, but it gives you a feeling that it is. At times, you can get an idea from the streets also. It is a matter of making a complete package of a fielder at the international level,” adds the 49-year-old, who was the fielding coach of the victorious India U-19 World Cup team in February.

The feeding line

Sharma’s vision is to shape the supply line to the senior team. “From the U-19 to the A level, we are ensuring these boys are prepared mentally, and skill-wise, for the senior level as this is the feeding line for the senior team. That’s the whole idea,” he says.

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The idea of stressing on fitness has been floating since the U-19 level, thanks to coach Rahul Dravid. “It was Rahul’s idea, backed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The India U-19 World Cup team was a top-class fielding side. We worked for one-and-a-half years on skills and agility. We work individually according to the ability of the player,” he adds.

A chunk of India A’s flourish over the years is due to Sharma’s stringent training sessions.

Karn Sharma, Axar Patel, Ambati Rayudu, Ankush Bains, Rishabh Pant, Naman Ojha [to name a few], have all blossomed under him.