For Ramakrishnan Sridhar, a former member of the Hyderabad Cricket Team, his four-year tenure as Team India’s fielding coach is his biggest professional achievement. The man ascribes his success to hours of training, his knowledge of technical aspects of the game, and man-management.
“Also, M.S. Dhoni, I call him Skip, encouraged me a lot. He asked me to do the same thing that I had done with the U-19 boys. He and Ravi Shastri (Head Coach for Team India) instilled the required confidence in me,” says Sridhar, who was recently in Hyderabad for India’s second test match against the West Indies.
Ramakrishnan began his coaching career by mentoring kids at St. John’s Cricket Academy in 2002. “It was only then that I realised what a big responsibility it was because parents were trusting us to nurture their kids and mould them into good human beings,” Sridhar explains.
After successfully coaching the Hyderabad U-19 team, the Andhra Pradesh Cricket Team and Kings XI Punjab Team, he says he realised that coaching at the elite level was not about instructing, but understanding people. Players know what is expected of them, but the biggest challenge is winning their trust.
He says that his six-year stint at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru was instrumental in helping him get to know the team. “In 2011, as part of the team’s World Cup preparatory camp”
‘I worked with them for three weeks and helped them improve their throws, fielding, and catching, and I built up a good rapport with Virat Kohli, M.S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina, and Yuvi,” Sridhar says. He adds, “It took me around 6 to 8 months to win the team’s trust. There’s a famous saying that you should coach the person; not the sport. Coaching is all about empathising with players and their natural emotions and letting them be who they are. For instance, aggression comes naturally to Virat, so I don’t want him to remain quiet on the field. But at the same time, I want a quiet Ajinkya Rahane, because that’s how he is.”
The spinner says that another challenge is to know when to dispense advice to players. “Always advise players when they are in the right frame of mind to accept it,” he says.
We’ve seen a dramatic transformation in Team India’s fielding over the last few years, and we have Sridhar’s coaching to thank for that. But the fielding coach himself says that the people around him make his job easier. “I think Virat and Ravi Shastri are determined to have the best players, so that makes my job easy. Each fielding position requires a specific skill set, which we identify during the conditioning camp. And we give players certain positions based on their fitness levels. Players like Ajinkya, K.L. Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara have good hands, so we use them in catching positions,” he says.”
Ask him what he thinks of captain Kohli, and Sridhar describes him as a “man of great intensity”. “He has so much passion that at times, I have to tell him to stop practising because he’s had enough,” he says. Talking about how coaching has changed him as a person, he concludes, “Meeting and talking to different people gives you an insight into their cultures and personalities.” Off the field, Sridhar bonds with players over matters regarding life, spirituality, food, fitness, current affairs and the Army....