Rajasthan Royals has once again pulled a rabbit out of the hat, by naming two specialists in Sairaj Bahutule and Amol Mazumdar, the former being appointed as the “spin bowling coach’ and the latter as the “batting coach”. The surprise factor is that RR has gone for two Indian cricket specialists who have a phenomenal knowledge of the Indian cricket but are not one of the big glamorous names that most other sides can boast of. Both are very articulate, process driven and cricketers who have played 359 matches and scored 17,343 runs between them in the domestic first class matches. They will bring to the table their immense experience of the conditions as well as wealth of the local knowledge. Not only will the foreign RR players benefit, but also the Indian players will feel more comfortable being guided by them.
The RR cricket think tank, to me, seems far superior to most of the other IPL franchisees. Shane Warne as the mentor and Steve Smith as the captain will bring in the Australian approach. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler will bring in the English twist to it and with Zubin Bharucha, Sairaj, Amol and Ajinkya Rahane and their “never say die” Mumbai cricketers approach, they should be able to create quite a heady mixture of cricket brains and brawn. They do form a lethal combination which should catapult RR into one of the strong contenders for the IPL title. Sai as Sairaj is popularly called has not only played cricket for India, but has also captained and played for many years for Mumbai, especially during the time when they were an unbeatable unit in the Indian domestic scenario. A leg spinner with 630 wickets in first class cricket, he was unfortunate to be playing during Anil Kumble’s reign in Indian cricket. Sai after retirement went whole-heartedly into coaching and has had a stint with Kerala and Bengal. He has a very important role to play with the Royals as the side has six wrist spinners. Shreyas Gopal, the RR leading leg spinner and the left arm chinaman bowler from Afghanistan, Zahir Khan will be looking to imbibe all that coach Sai has to offer to better themselves. The nature of the wicket in Jaipur is slow and so the spinners will play a useful part in the home matches. Sai is just the right man to advise the RR bowling outfit, as he has put in a lot of sweat at every IPL venue during his playing days and has had his successes and failures. He now has to mould the spinners into an aggressive and fighting unit with every bit of the experience that he gained over the years.
Amol Mazumdar, the batting coach has a domestic record that easily slots him into being one of the all-time greats of Indian domestic cricket. He waited patiently as the next batsman to get in when Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli scored the record breaking 664 runs partnership in their school match in 1988. Amol since then has also patiently waited for a spot in the Indian side which unfortunately was elusive. Rahul Dravid, VV Laxman, Saurav Ganguly, Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and his two schoolmates Tendulkar and Kambli made it impossible for the Mumbai cricketer to find a place in the Indian side. A very serious thinker who has got runs galore in the domestic circuit has captained and played for Mumbai, Orissa and Andhra and then finally hung up his boots after playing two decades of cricket. Amol has been a regular commentator in India and has, therefore, a good knowledge of the playing conditions of most of the cricket grounds in India. He will be the man that every batsman in the RR side will be brainstorming with to get an insight on the best shot making options and the type of wicket that they most likely will encounter. The 20-20 format requires innovative and ever-changing batting in order to be successful. Amol will need to evaluate each of his players and the batting combination and the batting order will be most challenging aspect for him. He will need to get the unknown RR batters to perform on the big stage as that has been the difference between victory and defeat. Having recently completed an extensive coaching certification course in Australia on the latest technique and processes, he now has all the armoury to load and fire.
Sai and Amol are both still very fit and having retired just 5 years ago, are very much in the wave length of a young Indian cricketer as they can still culturally and mentally gel with them.
The “made in India’ tag can be appropriate if Zubin, Sai and Amol prove to be successful. This will go a long way in what RR has been doing so astutely. Giving young Indian cricketers the platform to flourish in and now for specialist young coaches the opportunity to redeem themselves as well.
About the author:
Yajurvindra Singh is a former cricketer who represented India between 1977 and 1979. He enjoys the unique distinction of achieving 2 world records – 5 catches in an innings, and 7 catches in a match – on his debut.
Disclaimer: Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Rajasthan Royals or its management.