Sunday, May 20, 2012

High Performance Coaching- Is the TNCA listening?

26year old highly talented rookie is carving a niche for himself in 'High Performance Coaching' programme for cricketers but  Chennai’s own Sriram Krishnamurthy may be lost to Australia and  England if TNCA continues to give him a ‘go-by’

'Coaching Position is one of Responsibility, Not of Power'- Sriram

 Victorian Club President - Sriram's Top Qualities include achieving Great Results with the Junior players and being Personable with High Integrity

About 12years ago, two promising U14 boys – K Sriram and N Sriram - were shattered when they found their names missing from the Tamil Nadu State team following a failure in the bone test. Despite the promise they held and considered a definite selection in the squad (N Sriram had scored a double hundred in a 25over school match), there was no direct communication to them and both of them (through their parents) found that their names were missing from the notice board at the TNCA. As they completed their nets session at the U14 Camp, their parents waited at the gate of the TNCA to give them the bad news.

Hearing that, one of them- N. Sriram- decided that he had had enough and did not touch a bat again. Thankfully, he was a good student academically, went to BITS Pilani and is now happily employed and settled in the US.

The other Sriram- Sriram Krishnamurthy (K. Sriram) who had a major part of his schooling at Bala Vidya Mandir, Adyar, was a lot more determined on the cricket front and continued to battle it out in the coming years. However, the same process came to sting him at the last moment, every time over the next 5years.  Someone who was not in the top known (cricketing) schools of Chennai had to fight an uphill battle to make his way to the top.

Bone Tests Stump Sriram
Both at U16 and U19 levels, he went through the selection process with tons of runs behind him only to be discarded by the ‘bone test’ at the last minute. It was only at the bone test taken prior to the announcement of the U19 state squad, did the doctor for the very first time sit with him for a personal discussion to give him the bad news and to tell him the results of the bone test.

During this entire period spanning over 6years, there was very little sensitivity shown in the handling of this talented left hand batsman.

Once, RBI’s S. Ramesh even took his case up with TNCA and also all the way with the BCCI on the rule of Class Ten students being ineligible for U14selections. Later, S. Ramesh and NS Ramesh were also instrumental in securing him opportunities to play for RBI in 2nd division league in Chennai.

Surviving a Painful Phase
Somehow, Sriram (Krishnamurthy), unlike his other name sake, survived that phase, overcame his ‘bone’ disappointments (wondering many times as to why his bone had over grown and stumped him time and again) and continued to fight, but despite a run of good scores in lower division league, he was rejected by first division teams time and again at the last minute after impressing the relevant people in the selection trials (No God Father!!!).

There was a point when Sriram almost decided that he would not go for first division selection trials. It was S. Ramesh of RBI once again who helped him get a look in with a first division side. Interestingly, he played his first year of first division cricket for India Cement’s Grand Slam as a wicket keeper after an injury to the main wicket keeper of the side (After many years of being stumped off the field by different people at different levels, perhaps he was destined to stump a few on the field!!!).

After B.Com at Loyola college ( he had sports quota offers from Vivekananda and Guru Nanak College as well), he joined Ajuba Solutions, a Chennai based BPO firm where the night shift work impacted his performance in the league matches for RBI. During that year, it was another team mate at RBI, Keith Ward who asked him to decide on his future focus – a full time job versus focus on cricket.
He informed his BPO firm that he would like to quit the job (he had already been awarded the best trainee there).  During the short period that he was there, Sriram had proactively worked on a performance improvement chart that impressed his project manager that he actually offered him a day management job.

But by this time and having to fight against all odds every single time, the lack of a professional cricketing system in Chennai had got through to Sriram. It occurred to him that the cricket system here was fully based on ‘who you know’ and 'have to be in the right place at the right time with the right set of people'.

Cricket in the UK with the Ashes winning England Side
After having fought his way through for almost 10years, Sriram decided that he would move to the UK in 2008 to try his hand in a more professional set up.

That English Summer, he played for Cornwell Cricket Club, a minor county. Within the next year, he was selected in an ‘Overseas team’ comprising of the best overseas players (there are 24 teams in that league with each team having 4 overseas players. He had performed well enough to be one of the 11players of those 96overseas players).

This overseas team went to that famous English ground in Edgbaston to play against Warwickshire U19 team. Impressed with his performance, former England spinner and Director of Warwickshire County Club Ashley Giles presented Sriram with his jumper. The professionalism in English cricket motivated Sriram to stay back in the UK for another 6months. He decided to pursue his academics and did his Masters in HRD ( Human Resource Development) from the Lancaster University in Manchester, where he also played cricket.

It was during this period at Manchester that got him initiated into Coaching. His Masters degree had a paper on Knowledge Management (one that is well known and practised in the corporate world). Sriram wanted to see if this concept could be implemented in the sports field.

A turning point came when the Director of Lancaster Cricket Board (LCB) watched Sriram score a brilliant hundred that English Summer and enquired about him and his ambition in life. When Sriram Krishnamurthy spoke to him about the thesis he was to do as part of his Masters degree, the director asked him to do the thesis on Lancashire Cricket Club. An overjoyed Sriram spent the next six months with the county team researching on the coaching philosophies.

So impressed was he with Sriram’s efforts, that the LCB director asked him to continue with the club for another year even after he had completed the thesis related work.

In 2010, Sriram went back to England, this time on the invitation of The English and Wales Cricket Board to do High Performance Coaching related work ahead of the 2010-11 Ashes. Sriram conducted Coaching Workshop for coaches including lecture sessions for those coaches who were handling the English team playing the Aussies that year. It was a three month programme that involved High Performance coaching.

Anchoring the behind the scenes programme, Sriram followed almost a shadow of the English Players during that period closely monitoring them in order to create a workshop for them. He spent a whole of three weeks understanding them and their system.

Despite that role with the Ashes winning England team, Sriram’s mind was always in Chennai and to work closely in his home state. He wanted to make a difference to Tamil Nadu Cricket and later with Indian cricket.  He came back here in late 2010 with the idea of launching a coaching workshop and the High Performance coaching programme.

TNCA and NCA show No Interest in Sriram's High Performance Coaching System
He held talks with TNCA officials including the then captain of the Tamil Nadu Ranji Team. As had been his experience over the previous decade of playing here in Chennai, things did not progress as he would have liked though he had just had a successful stint in England.

TNCA lose Sriram to Australia!!!
Chennai’s loss seemed to be Australia’s gain for former Aussie coach Tim Nielsen, who had heard of him in Lancashire and who had seen Sriram work with the English team initiated a process for Sriram to undertake a captain cum coach engagement in Australia (And yet no one in his home land – be it the concerned authorities in the TNCA and elsewhere- seem to want to leverage the huge potential in this young rookie).  

Frustrated with the lack of response in his home city, Sriram made his way to Australia as part of the two year contract that he signed with Murgheboluc Cricket Club (in Victoria) that had about 100members and 5teams under its fold. There in Victoria, Sriram was made responsible for the overall personality and cricket development of 75players of that club.  He developed a coaching plan and created a coaching structure for the club.

High Performance Coaching Model

For the next 6months in that Australian Summer, Sriram Krishnamurthy worked closely with young players in Australia working on his specialised coaching model that starts from understanding the player’s background, his character, his lifestyle, attitude and finally his technical cricketing skills.

With every student in Australia that he worked with, Sriram spent several hours understanding inside out their social side, their work ethics and their professional side (Club cricketers in Australia who are not contracted nationally actually are on day jobs on playing days) identifying their strengths and weaknesses which in turn impact their on-field cricketing performance.

During this period, he clearly instilled a sense of self belief in his students making them mentally stronger and providing them with clarity in their thought process on what they could achieve on the field in cricket.

It was not a straight forward process at all for Sriram, who for long played alongside Anirudh Srikkanth in Chennai. In fact, it was very complex to identify the strengths of each and every kid and to make them understand their potential and then to make them play to their potential. Given the short attention span of kids, it took Sriram several weeks to undertake this process and to then translate what he had understood of them into a process driven framework for them to follow and implement, one that enabled the kids to create a separate identity for them while at the same time making them enjoy their game.

Understand the cricketer's background and the social side of life
Understand and analyse his Character based on his lifestyle, work ethic and attitude
Analyse his technical skills- strengths and weaknesses

A failure of a player in a match / set of matches may not be just because of some technical flaw. Any of the above mentioned factors could play a role in the success or failure of a cricketer. Based on this analysis of multiple factors, Sriram goes about creating a specific coaching plan for each kid. 

As a one on one personal coach, Sriram believes strongly in being fully responsible for their performance over a period of time. Without accountability, the concept of one on one coaching will not be successful, says Sriram.

Coaching methodology is very structured and professional in Australia . For example, coaches in Australia and the UK at all levels right from the junior most are present at the ground 30minutes before scheduled start of the session to get things ready for the players.  So much preparation is required in a coaching engagement. Typical Indian coaches rarely realise that. Very rarely will you find that in Chennai/ India. Most of the time, you will see coaches walking in alongside the players.

Writing on LinkedIn, Ron Stoop, President Murgheboluc Cricket Club, Victoria, Australia endorsed Sriram's role with the players at the club : "Sriram has shown tremendous leadership at the club and has undertaken a fantastic job with developing our junior players through the junior development squad he established."
He is of the view that Sriram's Top Qualities include achieving Great Results with the Junior players and being Personable with High Integrity.

Cricket Coaching develops overall personality
Coaching, Sriram says, is synonymous with overall development of the individual. Coaches should push students to fulfil and exceed potential. Coaching Position is one of Responsibility, Not of Power. 

Communication skill is very important for a coach. Also, coaches have to understand social psychology and be empathetic with their wards.The aim of the coach should be to ensure that this students play to their fullest potential by creating a sense of enjoyment for the game and a competitive streak in them. They have to have a desire to practice and play when they wake up every morning.

For these kids that he is engaging with in Australia, Sriram uses a performance incentive model where he spends out of his pocket after they achieve a certain pre-set milestone in every match or practice session.
Having experienced 4years of playing and coaching in England and Australia, Sriram believes that there is a world of difference in the meaning of the term ‘professionalism’ as seen and understood in India and as practised in Australia and the UK. Here, in Chennai / India, professionalism is just offering your services for money, where as in those two countries, professionalism really relates to the way you conduct yourself, the work ethics, mentoring youngsters and giving your best in everything you do.

Will TNCA grab him before it is too late
Now 26, Sriram Krishnamurthy has a burning desire to be involved with Indian cricket with a specific objective of improving the coaching system and structure here in our country. His Masters in HR gives him an edge in understanding the psyche of cricketers before devising a performance enhancement and achievement plan for them and he has fought against odds to remain in cricket when others may have given it up ( like his name sake did a decade ago). He continues to be a determined left hand bat, kept wickets in first division, bowls off spin when captaining his club team in Victoria, Australia.

Given that TNCA and the then TN captain did not respond favourably to his coaching offer despite him showcasing the work he had done with the England team and in Australia, and with the then NCA Chairman (former India Captain) not responding to any of Sriram offer to explore the possibility of working towards a structured and a professional coaching system, and with offers and long term contracts pouring in from Australia (including stints involving coaching U13 and U15 kids in Geelong) and the ECB, Sriram may well turn out to be another case of great Indian talent being lost to 'Overseas Professionalism',  to countries that are always looking out for continuous improvement!!

PS: Despite being the nephew of Chennai’s greatest sporting icon, Sriram Krishnamurthy did not once during all those years of turmoil in his cricketing days here in the city, use that icon’s name for favours. If nothing else, that characteristic alone will stand him in good stead as he seeks to carve a niche for himself in High Performance Coaching. Hope the TNCA is listening!!!


Anonymous said...

Great article!! A perfect reflection of my cousin brother's perseverance for the game that he loves so much and is so passionate about. Still hoping to see him do his wonders for Indian cricket.

Anonymous said...

Great article!! A perfect reflection of my cousin brother's perseverance for a game that he is so passionate about and loves so much.still hoping that he will get his opportunity to do his wonders for indian cricket.

Anonymous said...

Very well written! Hope someone in the TNCA gets to hear this!

Anonymous said...

I don't have words... This one is probably one of the best cricket pieces I have read. Very informative and very moving... Super stuff, do keep it up !!

I think Sriram is a far more grounded guy than the others in the system.

Anonymous said...

Nice One Prabhu....this shows that BCCI or TNCA is not ready to accept a 26 year young Indian to take an advisory role...we need old Indian or young Whites to work with our Cricket Boards or with our top cricketers...Sriram should refrain from knocking the doors of TNCA or BCCI he is losing his negotiating power...I am sure he will be called by one of the IPL teams soon that will help him establish in India/Chennai...I wish him good luck and glad that cricket is his bread winner for the amount of hard work he has put in...

Suresh said...

nice read.. its true that in a country like india gifted with so many potentials, a lot many hurdles come in way of recognizing the talents of young indians. i wish that sriram gets what he yearns for in life and reaches many heights in international cricket... very well written article

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Enjoyed reading it and I hope India leverages Sriram for the good

John said...

Good post! I just hope it gets the attention of TNCA for this talented boy.

Anonymous said...

You think all this is true!!?

PRabhu S said...

all of 'what' is true?- which ones are you referring to.


Anonymous said...

hi sriram. so happy for you as have taken cricket coaching,full credits to you for all the hard work done and i feel you deserve a lot.may god bless you with lots of success in all your efforts,best wishes and warm regards.