The eleven Commandments - for coaches and cricketers
- By Polly Umrigar
A cricketer who works hard has a greater chance of
entering the big league than someone with a
It also helps if people who genuinely love the
sport and love to share their knowledge guide the
cricketers. On the basis of my relationship with
the sport that has spanned over six decades, I have
put together some 'observations' that might be of
interest to budding cricketers and their coaches.
Curiously, they add up to eleven.
The 'Eleven Commandments' are:
4 'Coaching - Majority Wins':
Kapil Dev helps out Zaheer Khan in the nets
1. 'What' and 'How':
Unfortunately, most of the cricket coaching is
directed more towards 'what' to do with the ball.
However, it is also important to tell youngsters
'how' to do it.
2. 'Coaches - always learn':
Schools constitute the nursery of cricket. However,
very few of these 'nurseries' have a coach or 'sportsmaster'
who has specialized knowledge. Consequently, his
assistance to the boys is only of the 'general'
type. Hence, these coaches should never rest on
their laurels, and continue to increase their
knowledge of the many aspects of the cricket, so
that they can pass on the same to their pupils.
3. 'Penance and patience pay':
The use of films for instructional purposes and
coaching clinics for schoolboys can be effective in
improving cricketing skills, but the results will
not be visible overnight. Hence, one should be
patient and continue to work hard.
It is not mandatory for a player to undergo formal
coaching to become an international. Natural
ability and the right breaks at the right time,
plus the knack of keeping the eyes and ears open
and picking up tips from people around you, can
take you to the top. However, geniuses are found
only in a minority, and for the majority of
youngsters who have the basic talent but do not
know how to harness it in the right manner,
coaching is necessary.
5. 'Nature - don't mess with it':
Many youngsters with an outstanding natural skill
have been lost to cricket because their coaches
altered their technique to make it 'orthodox'.
Unless there is some glaring fault, coaches should
encourage natural ability, or else, the outcome
will be disastrous. It doesn't make sense to tell a
bowler to grip the ball in the prescribed,
conventional manner to bowl a leg-break, if he is
able to spin it better and obtain greater accuracy
through his own unorthodox grip. Originality and
enterprise should never ever be suppressed for the
sake of orthodoxy.
What this implies is that coaches should be
sensible enough to understand when there is a need
for making corrections and when it is better to
keep quiet. If a gifted youngster with a good eye
is able to execute an 'unorthodox' shot well and
get away with it on most occasions, it is wrong to
discourage him from playing it.
John Wright with the Indian team
6. 'Perfect practice strips make perfect':
A major problem that coaches and their pupils face,
even in major cricketing centers like Mumbai, is of
finding suitable practice wickets. Can you teach or
learn billiards on a table that is not level?
However, merely providing a practice wicket,
regardless of its nature, and rolling it is not
enough. Coaches should always be on the lookout for
good practice pitches, for only then can they
impart proper coaching. To teach young players the
rudiments of strokeplay, it will help if there is
some uniformity in the behaviour of the ball. Many
a young player has had his confidence shattered by
a nasty blow in the face, when the ball has
suddenly taken off from an uneven surface.
The faster and truer the pitches are, the easier it
will be for a batsman to learn the fundamentals of
strokeplay. Indoor nets would be ideal, but there
aren't many of those in India.
9. 'Rely on humans, not machines':
Aussie coach John Buchanan
gives 'juggling' practice to skipper Ricky Ponting
7. 'Confront the problem':
In the nets, the batsmen should make it a point to
face the type of bowling they dislike or find
difficult to handle.
8. 'Don't cross the crease':
Like the batsmen, the bowlers too shouldn't relax
in the nets. They should bowl as they would in a
match, and try and avoid overstepping the crease.
Very often, with no umpire to check them, they
start bowling from 18, 20 yards and before they
realize it, it becomes a habit. In the match, they
end up doing the same thing and the umpire keeps
Daily catching and throwing practice will never go
waste. The old slip-fielding machines were useful,
but they had their limitations. One soon got
accustomed to the machine and could predict how and
in which direction the ball would bounce off it. It
is therefore better to practise slip-catching by
forming a slip-cordon and having someone to throw
the ball to a teammate or coach, who 'edges' it
with a bat.
10. 'Observe and absorb':
It is advisable for players to watch others and
learn by observation and example. At the end of the
day, a player is his own teacher. Observe, analyse
and then work out what suits your game. And yes,
11. 'With knowledge comes responsibility':
No coach can teach a youngster 'ability' and 'judgement'.
He can only tell his pupils what to do and how to
do it. The execution of all that he imparts is
entirely the student's responsibility.