Under Mahela Jayawardene, Mumbai Indians have won six of their eight games so far and the side leads the points table at the half way stage of the IPL. But the Sri Lankan says he has not made too many changes to the team and the success belongs as much to the coaches of the past as the present ones. Excerpts from an interview…
How has coaching experience been, particularly a high profile side like Mumbai Indians?
I knew it is going to be a challenge. From the time I first sat for a meeting with them I have enjoyed the experience. A good group of players, a very well organised franchise, professional management… so far it has been a fascinating journey.
Does the challenge also come with a bit of pressure?
Yeah. Anything that you do, the pressure will be there. To control that pressure, you have to see it as an opportunity. The job can be easy if you go through the right thought process and be transparent.
It has been quite some time since you left playing. But how do you differentiate between the challenges of playing and coaching?
It is quite different in the sense that as a coach you don’t have control over the situations out there. It is up to the players. This is something I had understood when I was playing. Actually I am still playing T20 cricket around the world. What I can control is to prepare the players for each game and every situation and make sure that their mind is in right place.
What do you bring to the table as a coach that others don’t?
I don’t know if I have made a difference. It is a new season. This year we bought very few players and continued with the old set of players. The core remains the same as last year. Even Nitish Rana had played under Ricky Ponting. I just made a few changes but it was after consultation with everyone concerned, including other coaches. It is continuation of good things of the past and a bit of addition from my side. So I don’t deserve credit, it has been a whole team effort. What I bring to the table is my 18 experience as a player and how I relate that to the players.
You were previously associated with the ECB, now with MI. But why not with your national team?
It is because I am not ready. The ECB stint and even the IPL stint are for a short time. It is tough for someone to take up coaching after playing for 18 years. My responsibility is now with my family. I have to make sure that I give them some time. As for Sri Lanka, they have a coach in place. And it would be better for me stay away from the system for some time.
Has batting changed? There are more power-hitters like Kieron Pollard than stroke players like you.
The game needs to evolve and you need all kinds of players. If you saw the way Rohit (Sharma) played yesterday, he was all grace. Different players have different approaches. There has to be balance between those styles. I am very delighted the way the game has evolved, especially in the area of fitness. It should evolve more going forward.
So are you comfortable with changes in bat specifications?
Yes. I was one of the persons on the ICC panel to recommend this. It is because the ball has not changed over the years but other things have, the boundaries are getting smaller, the wickets are getting flatter. Then you take into account the rules — the wide ball rule, the no-ball rule, power plays, etc. All are in favour of the batsmen. In that context, if you have bigger bats, it is not fair. Anyway the batsmen are fitter and stronger. There has to be a balance between the bat and ball.
So your heart beats for the bowlers…
Sure, it does. It’s a rare breed the bowlers in the modern day cricket. That said, their skills have improved, the execution is better. I still feel if you have spicy wicket, the bowlers will have the upper hand. It balances out a little bit that the batsman has only one chance while the bowler has many. But still, bowling is a tough job.
Dhoni was in the opposition and the setting was the Wankhede yesterday… Did it remind you of anything?
No, not really, because we have played each other so many times and for so many years. He is a fantastic player. What he has contributed to the game is special. The way he has gone about his career so far is fantastic. I have enjoyed playing him as an opponent. He is still a dangerous batsman. He did not damage us too much like he did the other day.
The question was with reference to the World Cup final…
Yes, I know. It was a long time ago. India played better cricket and won. Anyone losing the World Cup is tough one, but we have moved on.
- Vijay Tagore