Appointment of Assistant Coach- A positive long term move
Tamil Nadu Cricket Association’s (TNCA) recent decision to appoint a full time assistant coach, for the first time, is a welcome move and one in the right direction.
J. Gokulakrishnan (these days he calls himself D. J. Gokulakrishnan!!) who did not quite get the right opportunities as a player for Tamil Nadu (he later moved to Goa and was close to national selection while playing for Goa in the early 1990s) seems to have got a fair deal this time. And at a very opportune time for him.
His positive contribution as an Under 19 coach with the TN team earlier and the success he had there,motivating the teenagers and directing them in the right direction(Abhinav Mukund had said in an interview last year that Gokul played a critical role when the youngster was down on confidence), has been recognized, landing him the assignment with the senior team as the team’s first Assistant Coach.
With Tamil Nadu in a transition phase, and the team likely to comprise a mix of raw talent and upcoming players, one believes that this is a good time for both the coaching staff as well as the selection committee to work together to help bring Tamil Nadu back into the reckoning on the national stage after a dismal performance last year.
Close to National Call
There are a few players in the team hoping to make it to the national team this year. Badrinath has been on the fringe of national selection for the last 2-3 years now and his recent performances as the captain in the India ‘A’ tour of Australia would have done his confidence a lot of good, as he looks forward to yet another Ranji season. A few big scores early on in the season could see him don the India cap, especially with the veterans in the team struggling for runs. It seems that it is only a matter of time before the mantle of re-establishing a strong middle order(No. 3-6) is passed on to the next generation of players, for them to carry Indian cricket into the next decade.
Ashwin, the offspinner, missed a major part of last Ranji season because of an injury sustained early into the season. He too would be looking forward to the new season with the hope of making it to the next big league.
Abhinav (Mukund) had a dream start to his Ranji career last year amassing runs at will. He must have been disappointed to have sat out the entire U19 World Cup tourney. But if the early league (first division in Chennai) form is anything to go by, he seems to have put that disappointment behind. He has started off the league season with successive centuries.
These players and the rest of the team that is likely to comprise youngsters (most aged below 25) would look up to the coaching staff in helping them perform to their potential. The appointment of TS Mohan as the fielding coach is also a positive move and his fielding drills is certain to lift the fielding standards of the team.
Comeback man L. Balaji will also be looking forward to his first full Ranji season in a while and to getting back his India cap, after being away for a couple of years because of injury.
The New Assistant Coach
Gokul has been known as a team man and a motivator. He could play an important role in building the confidence in the TN team.
His recent performance in the TNCA first division league is a clear pointer to his fighting spirit. After being away from first division cricket for a year, Gokul has come back strongly this year, with a couple of stellar match winning/saving performances in the first round of matches. His 8 wicket haul in the 2nd innings helped UFCC (T.Nagar) score a shocking come back victory against Parry’s last month.
And last week, he combined with another veteran (S.Sharath), this time with the bat, to keep Jolly Rovers at bay, after his team was forced to follow on.
While not commenting on his specific role as the assistant coach, Gokul was upbeat on the opportunity provided by the TNCA. “I am quite serious about my coaching career and this in a way is the launch platform for me. I have always played cricket both with passion and aggression. I don’t see this (coaching) to be any different.”
Gokul also exuded confidence at the contribution he can make to the TN team. “While it may be too early to set goals, I am confident that I can make a positive contribution to the team, in terms of creating a positive mindset and helping them play aggressive, fighting cricket.”
He also was confident that he could make a positive impact on the bowlers in the TN team, especially on the mental front.
Instant support has come from former TN Ranji winning captain and the first captain of Gokulakrishnan in the Chennai first division (almost 2 decades ago) S. Vasudevan(under whom Gokul took 40 wickets in his debut season in first division cricket) commended the appointment of Gokul as the assistant coach. “Gokul was a good all-rounder cricketer. He excelled well with bat, ball and was also a very good fielder. His appointment as the TN Assistant Coach augurs well for the TN youngsters as he is a very good student of the game and has the right capabilities in imparting the necessary skills to the present bunch of cricketers.”
It is important,though, that he is given the ‘leg room’ to play his role (as an assistant coach) in the same way he played he played his cricket, else his value will be lost to the team.
The move to elevate R. Madhavan to the post of chief selector is also to be welcomed as is the decision to separate the roles of chief coach and chief selector. One can hope that the non-controversial and the seemingly unbiased southpaw(especially so since we have seen favouritism in selection and even in the choice of captain of the TN team in the recent past !!), who was on the verge of making it to the national team in the mid 80s, would provide stability to the team with a selection policy that has a Long Term vision of grooming youngsters.
With the mind away from the selection matters, one has to wait and watch as to how WV Raman performs as the chief coach (last year he played the dual role of Coach cum chief selector)!!
With the recent appointments, it looks like an interesting year is in store for TN cricket and one hopes the new appointments will take TN into a brighter phase