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Unlike his aggressive on-field persona, where he takes bowlers head-on, especially in the shortest format of the game, Ambati Rayudu is a shy, soft-spoken 26-year-old. The Hyderabadi, who bats for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL told iplt20.com about how being at the crease with skipper Sachin Tendulkar makes batting look easier.
Excerpts from the brief chat:
On MI’s prospects after a good run in IPL 2011 and CLT20 2011
I think preparations are going on really good and most of the players have played the full season, domestic as well as those who were in international side. [...] We should have a good run this season as well.
On Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th ton
He is a champion cricketer, what can I say? We all are very happy, and the whole nation is grateful that he is got the 100th ton. It is a great feeling for everyone.
On how sharing the dressing room with international players helped him
Definitely, it will make you better, because watching them play and watching them perform so well will also make you better as a cricketer, and you would also want to do well. Especially, watching Sachin [Tendulkar] sir bat in the middle; he is so cool, calm and composed, he makes it [batting] look so easy. We feel there is lot more time than there actually is in Twenty20. These are the few things you pick up on the way.
On having scored runs prolifically in a star-studded line-up
It’s all about doing my own job and whenever we get an opportunity we should do well for the team and contribute.
On batting well in Twenty20 cricket
For the 20-over format, you should definitely be a stroke-maker and I have been trying to develop a few shots [...] and hopefully this year also I will have consistent runs.
On South African batting sensation Richard Levi
What I have heard from people is that he is a great prospect. I have played against him in the Emerging Players Tournament in Australia and he looked good. Hopefully, he will do well for MI.
On RP Singh, the new addition to MI’s bowling attack
We have RP, [Pragyan] Ojha and few other international bowlers coming in, so I think it will be great for the side. Hopefully, everybody clicks this season and we will have a good run.
On April 2, 2011, Trevor Bayliss sat dejected in the visitors’ dressing room at the Wankhede Stadium. He had just watched Gautam Gambhir anchor India to the world champions’ crown with a solid 97. It was Bayliss’ last match as Sri Lanka coach, and his second World Cup final with the team. Like in 2007, this too ended in heartbreak.
Bayliss moved on. He went back to Australia and mentored the Sydney Sixers to the Big Bash League title. A year has passed and he’s back in India. And due to a lovely little quirk of destiny, he will now join forces with the man who denied him a dream farewell in Sri Lanka colours. As the new coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders, Bayliss aims to help Gambhir and his team to the IPL 2012 title.
The man who has coached a state team (New South Wales), a national team and a T20 team now adds an IPL side to his coaching resume. In a chat with www.iplt20.com, Bayliss called himself fortunate to have had such varied coaching experiences.
Which aspect of coaching an IPL team excites you the most?
The atmosphere that is created around the tournament is outstanding. It will be great to be a part of that.
What do you rate as the biggest challenge of this new job?
There will be a lot of expectations from all over. I’ll have to try and live up to that and get the players to play better cricket. I have a very good squad at the KKR and if we could get them in a good mental space, it will pay rich dividends.
A hectic two months of travelling and playing will pose the challenge of striking a balance between preparation and rest.
It will always be a challenge in a tournament that lasts eight weeks. We have to be careful that we don’t overwork the players. We also have a number of days where the team will be away from the game. We have to ensure the players are not only physically but also mentally fit all the time.
How would you define the role of a coach in a team?
My philosophy is that the captain is the person who runs the show. The coach is a facilitator; he prepares the players to battle it out in the middle. There has to be a little bit of tactical awareness and the ability to help them improve their skill level. The proceedings are a lot faster in a T20 game. Keeping the players nippy on the field all the time is the biggest challenge of coaching a T20 team.
You’ll see a couple of New South Wales boys in the KKR change room in Brett Lee and Brad Haddin. Will that help you build a rapport within the team better and faster?
It’s good to have a couple of familiar faces in the team. However, after spending just a few hours here in India I’ve realised it won’t be a task for me to fit in to the team. I’ve met most of the support staff and they’ve been very nice and welcoming so far. I’m sure it will be the same with the players as well.
The first member of the team a new coach has to take into confidence is the captain. What is your first impression of captain Gambhir?
I met with Gautam in Sydney during India’s recent tour to Australia. I sat down with him for an hour or so. He’s a quietly spoken but a very determined man. He knows what he wants from his team. He has got some firm beliefs regarding the way the game must be played. His style of handling the team and different issues pertaining to the game are similar to my philosophy. Hopefully, that means we’ll be able to work together successfully.
Wasim Akram will be your coaching colleague. How do you plan to use his bowling expertise in helping the batsmen?
In every way possible! When you have personnel of that quality in the coaching staff, you’ll be silly if you don’t use their expertise to the maximum possible extent. A former bowler of that quality talking to your batsmen about how a bowler thinks, and the plans that he employs against them, is outstanding. I see that as a huge benefit.
Rudi Webster will also join the team this season. In what way would you seek his help in dealing with the players?
It’s one of those intangible qualities [that a sports psychologist deals with]. His role requires more work on one-on-one basis with the players if and when they need help. It will be a help for Gautam and myself as we try and build a winning team. He’ll give us a better understanding of how to approach a certain situation and put processes in place in order to create a positive environment within the team. Webster is a very humble man. I’ve spoken to him a couple of times and I’m sure he’ll be well respected by the players.
You were a brilliant fielder during your playing days. Do you put a lot of stress on that aspect of cricket during your coaching sessions?
I certainly do. I believe fielding is an indication of how well the team is doing as a whole. Batting and bowling is a very individual thing – it’s one against one. Fielding is a part of the game that everyone does together. When the whole team is fielding well as a unit, it is a sign that all the players are heading in one direction.
The team has a mix of established international stars and Indian youngsters. As a coach, is it more challenging to deal with the stars or guiding the younger ones?
Both have very different challenges and are very rewarding as well. The key is to get the more experienced players to pass on their knowledge to the younger players. On the other hand, it is important to create an environment where the young players feel free enough to seek help from the seniors. The best way for a youngster to improve is by watching the older players and asking questions.
Will your experience with the Sri Lankan team help you strike a chord with the sub-continental players?
I think it will. The way cricket is played in the sub-continent is a little different from the way the Australians go about it. The four years’ experience with Sri Lanka will hold me in good stead.
As a coach, is there anything in particular that you want to learn from your stint with an IPL team?
Whether you are a coach or a player, in the game of cricket you never stop learning. If anyone thinks they know it all, they’re in for a huge shock. The game keeps evolving from the playing point of view and the coaching has to evolve with it. And evolving is learning. I’ll continue to learn from my IPL journey as well.