Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cricket Coaching Academies

Treat every Net Session as the most important of your life
'Hard work pays- There is no substitute for hard work' - TS Mukund

For over 15years, T Subba Rao Mukund (TS Mukund) coached, directed and mentored Test Cricketer Abhinav Mukund while at the same time also donning the additional role of a parent. If ever there was a success case study on the role of  parent-coach in a cricketer, TS Mukund would qualify for one.

In this chat, he talks about the sacrifices that the cricketer couple (TS Mukund’s wife was also a cricketer) had to make for their son through Abhinav’s formative years. Rolling out several examples from his own coaching days (he rarely coaches these days- he is almost a misfit at most of the camps for he cannot tolerate indiscipline among his wards), he outlines simple cricketing tips that every youngster would do well to follow and implement to achieve success.

 Big Time Sacrifices have to be made not just by the Cricketer but by the parents as well
Abhinav was not yet out of school when at the NCA (National Cricket Academy), he was found to have a little additional fat. That evening at the NCA, he stopped eating his ‘Favourite Appalam’ that had till then formed a part of his daily meal. It’s been five years now since that event and Abhinav has not touched an Appalam again. But guess what, if that was not enough of a sacrifice, his parents too have stopped buying Appalam at home and have stopped eating appalam as well.

Given the Fat factor coming into play for Abhinav, Mr. and Mrs. Mukund, as parents, have not had an ice cream for years now (especially when Abhinav has been around).

Following a strict diet pattern has to be an integral part of  a cricketers’s daily routine. Parents have to ask the coach (or the dietician at the academy, if there is one!!) about the kind of diet for their children and follow that religiously, says TS Mukund.

A good night’s sleep
With Abhinav’s eyes set on making a Test comeback, his next big opportunity is the upcoming A Tour in the West Indies. As a lead up to this, Abhinav is currently reworking his daily sleep schedule. He is making efforts to sleep only after 2am / 3am in the night and wake up after 11am so he could get accustomed to the Carribean time zone. This is a sample of what a ‘wannabe’ Test Cricketer has to go through.

‘A young cricketer not yet into his teens has to sleep at 9pm and has to have solid sleep. Good Sleep is an essential part of a cricketer’s life’ is a strong message from Mukund.

‘Watching IPL late into the night when there is a practice at 6am the next morning has to be at the top of the list of ‘Do Nots’ for a cricketer.’ More importantly, what this also means is that parents too have to stop watching TV after a certain time in the evening for the sake of their son. And that is a sacrifice they will have to make for years on end if they are serious about giving their son an ideal cricketing platform at home.

Some of these sacrifices may seem very trivial, yet in the overall development of a player, each of these plays a very important role as a youngster seeks a move from ‘start up’ cricket to emerge as a top notch cricketer playing at the highest level.

Choosing a Coaching Academy
The root of many of the problems for a young cricketer lies in choosing the coaching academy where the cricketing student spends the formative years of his cricket, learning and strengthening the basics of the game. Number of wards inside a coaching camp, number of students attached to one particular coach and the quality of coaches are important indicators on the kind of attention your kid will get. A coach should be a good communicator and should share his tips in a simple language without jargons (How often have we heard coaches say ‘bracing too much’, ‘loading is not right’). He should also be a good listener and have the patience to answer all the questions of the young kids. Good knowledge of the game including the rules is also an important factor.

Mukund believes 15students is the maximum number a single coach should have for him to pay proper attention to the kids.

Parents seem to be clueless when it comes to choosing the right cricket academy for their children. They have to understand the background of the academy. It is important for them to have a chat with the Head Coach before taking a call.’ For some reason, they don’t seem to be doing that, laments Mukund.
The typical tendency of a parent is to immediately apply pressure on the kid after having initiated him into an academy expecting immediate results.  Mukund says, ‘Coaching is a process, it cannot produce results immediately. The parent as well as the cricketer has to have the full confidence in the coach.’ There are no short cuts to success.

While on this, Mukund comes up with a brilliant one liner- ‘Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional’

You cannot achieve cricketing success in one day, though you sure will achieve it one day if you show a long term commitment and put in the long hours of hard work every day and follow the directions of your coach.

Book Reading
Book reading should form part of a coaching academy says Mukund. “I used to read a lot of books for my students. In fact, on rainy days, book reading was a typical session we used to have when I used to coach Vidya Mandir students in the late 1990s.” Kids also should watch cricketing videos that are relevant to them.

Do not go for your Kids’ matches
Mukund has a strong message for the parents. “Stop going for matches of your kids. Let the kids enjoy the game as a sport and they will be able to translate their learning into practice without being under the glaring eye of their parents.”

8years ago, a boy then a under 13cricketer, was playing alongside me for a V Division league team.
He got out at 9.33am to the third ball of that 50overs a side league match that Sunday morning at SRMC ground in Porur edging an intended cut to the keeper.

Pat came the message from the father in front of our shocked team. ‘You have wasted my entire Sunday. What will you (and I) do here for the next 99overs?’ This kind of an event at a cricket ground is not an aberration. In fact, this is symbolic of ‘parental pressure’ that crushes the interests of the kids. Since then, this once talented kid has gone into oblivion.

Mukund sums up this attitude saying ‘Dejection will result in early retirement’.

Don’t go anywhere near Selectors
Mukund says he finds parents these days worried all the time about selection. Parents should focus on providing the right environment for the kids that will be conducive for the kids to perform at their best. Parents and the kid should not worry about selection. ‘Parents should stay far away from the selectors.’

(In 2010, I was witness to a parent talking one on one to a former Ranji Player turned U19 selector at St. Bedes ground on the exact batting spot he expects for his son in the U19 match that year)

Look Inward –Don’t compare
Do not be jealous of other kids and do no compare the performance of your son with that of others in the team. This will be a de-motivating factor for your son. Mukund finds this another typical mistake that parents and kids make these days. They are always looking outwards when they should be focusing inward and ways to improving the self.

Mukund remembers a phone call that he received several years ago that typifies this behaviour. Abhinav and another cricketer of his same age were progressing on similar lines and being equally successful in their school and age group cricket.

The call that Mukund got went something like this: “The openers’ spot is sealed. My son will bat at no. 3. Which number do you think Abhinav will bat at?”

Importance of Nets
TS Mukund believes that cricketers, especially those in the early teens don’t realise the importance of net sessions.  He says every kid should treat every session as the most important net session of his life. Intensity of Practice is important.  Kids would do well to have small targets for every net session that they should work towards and improve upon. Be fully occupied during every coaching session- do not talk unnecessarily. Follow and implement coach’s instructions and review periodically with the coaches.

Mukund sums up with a message that is applicable to all of us in every walk of life – “Remember hard work pays- there is no substitute for hard work. Have patience- Work Hard and you will achieve success”.


Choose your academy with care after background check and feedback from your friends/relatives/ other credible cricket sources
Choose your coach with care- Ensure that he will be available for you and that you will get his personal attention over a long period of time
Prepare for every Net Session as if it is the most important session of your life
Learn something every day from the coach and from every net session
Come with a clear objective for every net session
If you are not batting or bowling at the nets, do some fielding, watch closely how others are bowling or batting and talk to your coach about your improvement
Implement consciously what your coach has suggested on technical skills improvement
Do not listen to multiple coaches- Trust in your coach and follow his suggestions

Sleep by 930pm every night and wake up by 5am every morning- Make this a routine
Vacations/ Family Trips/Movies/Friends may have to be sacrificed for many years ( 10-15years) if you want to achieve big success in cricket – Decide early if you are ready for those kind of sacrifices
Follow a regular diet pattern- ask for specifics on your diet from your coach/dietician
Understand from the coach / dietician as to what you should eat/drink and what you should not eat/drink
and follow this without fail
Ask your coach to teach you finer aspects of the game- running between the wickets, backing up as a runner, walking in while fielding, catching position while fielding close to the wicket like slips, short leg, silly point
Watch technical videos on batting/bowling/fielding to improve your basics
Read Sir Donald Bradman’s book - ‘The Art of Cricket’

Work hard on your technical skills- 45mts -1hour of batting every day (for a batsman) 1-2hours of bowling for a bowler
Take at least 50catches at least twice or thrice a week- Also, work hard on ground fielding- Proactively ask your coach on the specifics of your fielding training
Focus also on exercises, running and physical fitness. Proactively ask and Understand from your coach on the specifics of your daily/ weekly fitness training
Pit fall in Choosing an Academy
In many cases, students have been let down by the ‘brand’. For example, two of the lead brand owners of the cricket camp at Gandhi Nagar Club Ground are missing in action as they are busy discharging an assignment handed out by the TNCA. (read story :

A banner at the Vivekananda College in Mylapore reads ‘Camp by Former Ranji, Duleep, Board President XI cricketer’ accompanied by a not so relevant photograph of GR Vishwanath almost giving an impression to parents that the future GRVs would come out of the camp. Unfortunately, the former Ranji, Duleep, Board President’s XI cricketer turned coach has been missing in action.

Not far away from the Vivekananda College and in the heart of Mylapore, inside the Mylapore Club, is the VB Cricket Academy, one that seems to continue to remain popular. For the last couple of years, the fate of the students here has been the same as that of the above mentioned summer camps.  

VB Chandrasekar, the anchor and the brand owner of the VB Cricket Academy, had been missing from coaching action for a long time with assignments for NEO TV.

Even while away, VB kept in touch with his coaching staff on a daily basis even giving instructions once over the phone from Bangladesh (where he was part of the commentary team for the Pakistan V Bangladesh Test Match last season) on the preparation of the pitch but his absence meant that his wards missed the much needed and sought for ‘VB Touch’.

The Good News for VB Academy kids this summer is that he has not missed a single day of coaching and has promised to pay his fullest attention to his wards. A sample of this was seen last evening under the lights at the Mylapore Club as in his typical aggressive style directed the show guiding one batsman on the sweep shot, a leg spinner on the high arm action and a left hander on how to play the ball straight

Three hours with VB and you could immediately feel a sense of discipline among the boys. A 1minute delay in making his way to the nets and you heard the familiar voice of VB giving it a big shout that had the boy sprinting his way into the nets for a batting session.

3years ago, VB had mentioned in a chat to me that what he brings to the kids is discipline, character building and technical skills involved in learning the game. Each of that was visible last evening)

The bottomline is this: The Brand Owner has to be physically present at the camp to make a difference for that is the ‘Selling Point’ of the academy.

 PS: Following the mushrooming of cricket academies in the city, Personal One on One coaching seems to be the next rage. More on that shortly including on how some of them are progressing and what lies in store for the future…


Anonymous said...

Great one Prabhu, this should be in the front pages of our National Dailies...Also important for coaches to understand the need for discipline and also inculcate the important of education as part of growing up as a cricketer. Coaches should be proud of their wards even if they don't flourish at the top level....Parents on their part should also be more realistic on what their kids can achieve and not push them.

One more point I feel is the need for a scientific approach to coaching(probably the personal coaching brings in this aspect)
the kids than the standard 3 hour nets....this is a great article Prabhu and should be an eye opener for the Coaches and Parents. Thanks and Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

Good one !!

Although I found some points amusing, like the sleep conditioning for the A tour.

I have seen my friends / relatives traveling around the globe (may be they didn't go on cricket tours but on more serious stuff like business tours !!) never have I heard of anyone conditioning him weeks before.

They just land and take a max of 48 hours to get into the groove.

My 68 year old father (he was 68 then) apparently took all of 24 hours to adjust to Texas time zone, so I don't think a 24 year old would take more time adjusting.

These are things that the modern day coaches / mental conditioning coaches make up to make playing cricket look as close to working on a zippe centrifuge.

Anonymous said...

Truly Well Written, Prabhu

PRabhu S said...

Thank You Sir/ Madam for your kind words.


PRabhu S said...

Dear Sir,

Since this is one for the kids and the parents, I would say that just the fact that some one ( Abhinav in this case) is thinking on those lines should get the parents/kids thinking as well on how they ( the kids) should be preparing ahead of matches ( even local matches/practice matches).

On Abhinav himself, I think it is a good thought process, given that he is on a comeback trail and his aim may be to bat 90overs ( 6hours of batting) every time he gets a chance to bat.

So I would say wanting to bat 90overs in a 24hour different time zone may require a little bit of this kind of preparation.


Rajesh Kalyanasundaram said...

Prabhu ...Best article I have ever read...Mr Mukund points are all very valuable and true...Parents should read this for sure...
Excellent work...Keep up the great work....

Anonymous said...

To the Article Author:

For your information,

It was made clear - explicitly - to the organisers, Gandhinagar Cricket Club, that,

1. Our commitment to the TNCA Academy overrides any other activity,

2. An annual summer coaching camp is a routine affair of the TNCA Academy and the dates and venue were awaited; I presume that the Club did inform the parents and wards about it. The E mail flier sent by the Club was clear and unambiguous about this aspect

3. All the coaches referred to in your blog have informed every person who approached them, on this aspect.

Your article based on incomplete information, is in poor taste.

( Moderated / Partly Edited Version of the comments received from the camp)

PRabhu S said...

From Prabhu:

I have given within brackets the link to the original camp story( written in April-last month)

In the update (which was written prior to writing this piece) to that camp story, the Cavaet about the likely commitment to TNCA was mentioned.


PRabhu S said...


Thank You.


Anonymous said...

If the concerned person would have written an apology based on the what they have done I would considered then to be genuine in their efforts...disappointed not ready to let go their ego or accept their mistakes.......hope they take their jobs seriously and stand by what they say. Thanks Prabhu this article will make them think twice before repeating the same approach next year...

Babu.S said...

I am fully agree with what Mr.Prabhu told about sacrifices for good cricketer.
I too go for sleep at 09.30 P.M daily and wake up at 06.00 A.M, not for cricket practice but for a tea.


PRabhu S said...

Dear Mr. Babu,

Thank You for the comment.

Request you to please go for a 15-20minute morning walk since you wake up at 6am before you have your first tea.

You can inculcate this habit and discipline among your family members as well.


Anonymous said...

All the tough mental conditioning and timing the sleep to the Americas doesn't seem to have worked :-(

Not even to the extent of running once across the wicket and letting the scorer pen one straight stroke in two innings!!

Alas, next time I guess he should try get bags full of air from the countries to be toured and try breath it. That I think would be the ultimate conditioning exercise that would work wonders