Cricket to mind skills – Badrinath's new avatar

Former India and Tamil Nadu batsman Subramaniam Badrinath got limited opportunities in international cricket but he has no regrets; he is happy to return to action with MFORE, a mind-conditioning initiative for athletes across disciplines.

“Mind is so powerful that it can take over yourself, so you need to train it properly,” says Badrinath.   -  B. Velankanni Raj

Seasoned in the elite era of Rahul Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman, middle-order batsman Subramaniam Badrinath knew that India selection wouldn’t be easy. Not too different from scaling Mount Everest.

Though the hard work earned him a berth, the dream did not last long; two Tests, seven ODIs and one T20I, to be precise.

He found a friend in Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who trusted in his abilities and, thus, Chennai Super Kings happened. People still remember the right-hander for the 11 fifties he scored in the IPL. In a chat with Sportstar, Badrinath relished the golden days and discussed his new initiative post retirement — MFORE, a service offering mind-conditioning for athletes across disciplines.

How much of a role did mind conditioning play during your career?

If I knew a little bit of what I know today, I would have been a far better cricketer. I was not a naturally gifted player. Complete awareness of the self is very important. There is a saying that if a man is hungry, you need not feed him a fish but you have to teach him how to fish better. Mind is so powerful that it can take over yourself, so you need to train it properly.

Is that one of the reasons why you launched the enterprise?

It, definitely, is a reason. The idea occurred to me while I was playing golf. I realised I had played a poor shot. I knew I had the skill sets to play the right shot but my mind was weaving stories about a tree in front and the water. It was telling me things that was not needed.

READ| It was easy to choose Virat Kohli, says Badrinath

How is MFORE going to operate? Will there be an office space in Chennai too?

It is a global initiative and it will cater to all sports, not just cricket. But now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is going to start with online sessions. We have a website, mfore.in, and any athlete or any team can go and access that for details. We will straight away get in touch to talk about their needs. Every month, we will do at least two webinars to create awareness which will help the athletes, family, the coaches and the entire sporting fraternity who are upset sitting at home at present and not feeling motivated enough. They are going through anxiety. Later, there could be an office.

S. Badrinath with Mahendra Singh Dhoni (left) during an IPL match for Chennai Super Kings in 2010.   -  FILE PHOTO/ AKHILESH KUMAR

 

Can you explain the process that your team will follow in the operations?

[If] a golfer wants our sports psychologist to be with him throughout the four-day tournament, we will do that once COVID-19 subsides. We want our team to attend practice sessions of athletes to study their methods. We can see how they are preparing and then, we will design a programme. We will give them challenges and then, the reports to the players thereafter, as to who is best suited to handle the situation. We will be able to watch and provide information in one-on-one sessions.

In cricket, how does a batsman overcome nervousness before playing the first ball?

You are going to be nervous in the first 10 balls, not only me, it happens to Dhoni, happens to Virat Kohli, but you need to handle it. You need to understand the emotion that goes through you. For me, it could be not talking to my father also. He wants me to play well but I may not be talking to him the day before the match. It is a small thing but it can make a huge difference.

And the mindset keeps changing according to formats…

In Test cricket, the mind plays differently. You need to be aware of the conditions, wicket, which bowler will bowl at what time, where your off-stump is... from a batsman’s point of view. A bowler will be bowling 20 overs a day; he needs to manage his spells. After the tea session, the conditions change and a bowler may feel like it is his turn to bowl in full boom.

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What about T20 cricket? It is too quick…?

You need to react faster. The plan changes with ever ball and every match. You may have got out for a duck, but you have to close that thought and move to the next venue. You have to get used to hitting the ball in the air, get the body used to it and not worry about getting out. What positions you can pick those shots from and from where you can pick the yorkers.

Talking about Kohli, he was picked in 2008 over you. The then chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar later revealed that the decision cost him the job as it infuriated N. Srinivasan, who was the BCCI secretary…

It was easy to pick Kohli. Even in 2008, he was very good. In fact, I remember a match we were playing for India A when I was the captain, and he was in the side. Batting at No. 6, he wasn’t getting runs. So I had a word with our coach, Pravin Amre, and we asked him to open. He got 130-odd runs. That innings helped him. See, it was difficult to get into that team as you had Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Dravid and Laxman.

But you did, and you scored a fifty on Test debut against South Africa…

I got a chance as Dravid was injured. As a college kid, I used to bunk class and go and watch Dravid play. He would hit the nets at Guru Nanak College in Velachery those days when he played for India Cements. He was my idol.

What’s your best memory with the legendary Tendulkar?

I was nervous before my debut and I went up to Sachin paaji for a chat. He told me something that calmed me down. He said: ‘Don’t worry Badri, I am also nervous but you belong here’. Sehwag had congratulated me and said: ‘Congratulations, you are now an official Test cricketer for India.’

S. Badrinath with Sachin Tendulkar on the eve of his debut Test against South Africa in Nagpur in 2010.   -  FILE PHOTO/ K.R. DEEPAK

 

Even Tamil Nadu was packed with stars when you made your Ranji Trophy debut…

When I made my debut, Robin Singh was captain. Then you had players like T. Kumaran, Sadagoppan Ramesh and Hemang Badani. All were India players and there was healthy competition. I was blessed to be around these guys and on top of that, the league cricket in Chennai is very good with so many grounds along with MRF Pace Foundation.

People in Chennai love Dhoni and CSK perhaps has the strongest fan base. How was it to be part of the madness?

I am proud to be from Chennai and it was fantastic to represent CSK in the IPL. And the Chepauk crowd love MSD. But he is like still water. Even after a huge win or a bad loss, there is no change in his expression. And if you remember, the Chennai crowd had once given a standing ovation to the Pakistan team in 1999.

If you had to choose one best moment from your international career, what would that be?

Winning the man-of-the-match in my only T20I for India against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 2011 [for scoring 43 off 37 balls].