From being 36 all inside 21.2 overs to surviving 131 overs in the fourth inning – the Indian drummers had a soul-searching workshop in the Australia tour. They achieved nirvana in Brisbane by hunting 328 to clinch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1; this time in the presence of David Warner and Steve Smith.
Indian batting coach Vikram Rathour did not lose heart in the midst of the storm. He believed in his process and supported the players.
In a conversation with Sports star, Rathour shed light on the preparations for the Down Under tour which kicked off in July 2020, the curious case of Rishabh Pant and his thoughts on the upcoming series against England.
Would you call this the most impactful streak you’ve seen in your cricket journey so far?
Definitely, playing against Australia which is one of the best teams in the world, Australia. To top it off with the injuries we had, the start we had, it was spectacular to come back, do well and end up winning the series. It was special.
Tell us about the preparation leading up to the series.
Support staff began having discussions during the COVID-19 lockdown. I had a chat with our head coach Ravi Shastri. We thought it was time to start some kind of process with the players. To put good thoughts in their minds for the Australian series. On the stick side, I worked with our analyst Hari Prasad who works with SportsMechanics.
We had a long discussion about what we wanted to share with the boys. There were individual presentations for each hitter, what kind of bowling they’ve faced in the last two rounds in Australia, their scoring zones, etc. We just gave them a plan to look at it all. Then of course there was a discussion of zones – short ball or any other zone, what would be their plan to deal with that? We told them the things we wanted them to work on.
And what was it after Adelaide 36?
Nothing has changed to be quite honest. That was the trick. The coaches didn’t let anything change. We sincerely thought we had prepared well. We had spent a lot of time in Australia during quarantine in the COVID situation. The test hitters have had good net sessions from the start. Adelaide was a one-time incident. You can’t really explain what happened. The message to the players was that they should believe in their methods and not let the doubt creep in. We didn’t really react to Adelaide.
Your take on Ajinkya Rahane’s classic and sweet test match in Melbourne. What was your contribution?
A lot of players think they are playing a certain way. Our contribution was that “listen, you have to play for the team, depending on the conditions and the way the opposition is bowling”. Ajinkya did this superbly that day. He really stepped into the game and figured out what he needed to do for the team. We needed him to play a big game.
Let us know how you feel in Sydney and Brisbane. Most Indians were on the verge of a heart attack when Rishabh Pant struck …
As coaches you realize that you are powerless in a live game. There’s really nothing you can do when people are knocking inside. It’s up to the players to play. Your work is done before the game starts. It is human nature to contribute here and there, you want to send messages. But hitters have their own plans and ideas. You can provide suggestions.
Rishabh Pant and batting coach Vikram Rathour during a training session. (Photo file) – K. Murali Kumar
We know how Rishabh beats. He’s an aggressive player who wants to score points, which is good, that’s what we want him to do. We’ve always wanted him to bring a little discipline and a game plan in which he plays his shots but picks the right balls to play those shots. I think he’s improving. We always believed he was a match winner that day. These two games have proven our point.
What is your message to all drummers in general?
The batter is about scoring runs. You have to find a way to score races. The way you do it, along with your game plan, is something you need to support. You need to sustain your strengths and make the right decisions at the right time.
What was the speech before day 5 at Gabba?
We thought we would be playing normal cricket as long as possible. It was still a good surface where the wicket played quite well. A few bullets went up and down but if you come out of a bullet like this, don’t worry. We thought we would see where we are at tea after playing the sessions. Shubman Gill played a great shot. Cheteshwar Pujara hit very well, then Rishabh took over. We knew the match was on.
Your thoughts on R. Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari’s resistance in Sydney. Rishabh at n ° 5 …
On the fifth day, we thought that if we beat well, we can win. Rishabh had started well. His shot put us in the game. Sending it to # 5 had been under discussion for some time. We wanted to send a lefty. Delighted bhai had a strong belief that left-handed people are needed because Australians don’t play left-handed people very well.
Rishabh has scored in the 20s and 30s in previous games, but we could feel a change in momentum every time he entered. Ravindra Jadeja had done well in Melbourne. So we decided to send Rishabh to No.5 in Sydney. We knew we could win until Vihari pulled his hamstrings. Ashwin already had a stiff back and Jadeja had a broken thumb. It was then that we decided that the raffle was the best option. Vihari did well throughout the series but couldn’t convert any of his starts. He fought with a lot of character in Sydney despite the injury.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari pushed their way through and helped India to a draw in Sydney. – Getty Images
We all knew Ashwin had a lot of potential as a drummer. He’s someone who can definitely beat and score points. He’s been a bit lost in recent years, and it was a promising shot to come back.
Do lower-ranked batsmen spend a little more time on nets?
The lower level hitters were a concern and we’ve been discussing this since I joined the team. We wanted to improve in this area and I still think we can do a lot better. There has been a concerted effort to put them back as much as possible. Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar were initially net players, but they also hit. We had people for the duds. They beat every day for 25 to 30 minutes. It finally helped, didn’t it? When the time was right and we needed them to beat, they sewn up the most important partnership in the series.
Can Hardik Pandya only be used as a batsman in the Test series against England since he hasn’t been bowling lately?
It’s a decision that the head coach and the captain have to make. Can he beat? Of course he can, but I couldn’t comment on his selection as a drummer alone.
What will be the key to doing well against England with James Anderson doing well in the subcontinent recently.
They have a really good bowling attack with three seamers and even the spinners, like Dom Bess, look good. I’m more focused on how we’re going to fight and what our plans will be. Like any other series, we started the preparations by looking at our hitters and the areas they play, and what to expect from the English bowling attack. Then we will discuss any game plans we can have against them. We have to do our job properly.
What will be the challenge for Prithvi Shaw to come back? People talk a lot about his technique. Do you think something is wrong?
He just had a bad streak, a bad test match. No one has the perfect technique and when you fail, people want to find out why. A lot of people have put it on his technique. Technique is the easiest thing to blame. Does he need to work on his technique? Of course, not just him, everyone has to work on their technique throughout their playing career. You are always looking to improve yourself. Prithvi is working hard on her fitness with minor technical adjustments. He’s still one of the promising young hitters on the Indian team and I think he will be making a comeback very soon.