Rohit promises fearlessness in playoffs

Credited for the success of the likes Ajinkya Rahane, Robin Uthappa and Suresh Raina by the players themselves, former India batsman Pravin Amre has earned a reputation for helping players grow, regroup and iron out their flaws. He has also been guiding Naman Ojha and Dinesh Karthik amongst others, besides coaching the Mumbai state team. While he coaches players who have already embarked on their international cricket journey, he is also responsible for shaping young talents like Shreyas Iyer, who has played a crucial role for the Delhi Daredevils in Pepsi IPL 2015.

His wards like Rahane and Uthappa have displayed a knack for scoring consistently across formats. In a free-flowing interview with, the player-turned-coach speaks about customising solutions based on a player’s natural approach and style, and spells out keys to batting consistently across formats.

Excerpts:T20 batting and pressure: I look at every case as a challenge and try to understand the player’s personality to be able to find solutions. We agree that technique is important, but at the same time delivering is important, especially in T20. Today the batsmen are under more pressure.

There is little margin for error in T20. The pressure builds with every dot ball and it can force the player to play a bad shot even if they have the technique. It is pertinent that they back themselves.

Once you have the technique you will have other alternatives. In T20s, it is about the strike rate. If you play 20 balls then people expect you to score 30 runs.

That should be the strike rate a player is expected to score at. At least that intent should be there. It’s not as easy as it looks and might not happen every time.

So we have to set realistic goals. Like play one good shot and then work on taking singles. Taking the pressure off is particularly important.

The mental toughness, believing in themselves and the decision making is important - to understand which ball to hit and which to leave. They have to back their strengths rather than focus on the weakness in this particular format. Every batsman has his own strengths; we only have to make sure they realise what their strength is.

Influence of coach Ramakant Achrekar: Achrekar sir always believed that every batsman is different. You can’t and shouldn’t change their original identity and that’s what I look to do. When a player comes to me with a problem I need to understand it in totality and find a solution.

Therefore, it is important to know and understand their history and try get to the root of it. I visualise the various options and how they will benefit them and work to find the simplest way out. I don’t touch their natural talent or make unnecessary changes.

I try and make sure that their natural style remains intact. I try to add 10 to 20 percent to their game which makes a lot of difference. There are certain shortcomings because of which they could not get runs off a particular kind of ball or in a particular area.

I offer them multiple solutions and we work to find what suits them best, which helps them play their own game with ease. For example, I never changed anything about Robin Uthappa’s basic approach, like how he goes and attacks the ball. Working on temperament: Here too you have to look deep to find why their temperament is disturbed.

It could happen when they are not able play a particular delivery or are not able to play it in a particular way. They too know it. When it is rectified, their confidence rises and they can then take on any bowler.

I give them confidence and show them how what they want can be done. However, sometimes it takes time to get things right and to get it correct in a match situation. Challenges while working with players who are in midst of their career: Firstly, they have a career at stake.

They are actively playing; it’s not as if they have taken time off and we are working on something. Every game and season is important. In Robin’s case we were working on correcting areas but at the same time he was playing in the Ranji Trophy.

There was failure in the first couple of matches, which is something that he and I understood and accepted will happen, since we were on the correction mode. But once things fell in place, the graph turned upwards. That clarity between us is important because at that point there will be criticism on why is he changing certain things.

It is important that the player understands why certain things are being done and that it will benefit him in the long run. They have already played for years and so muscle memory is already there. The undoing (unlearning) is more challenging for me.

To undo the previous learning and prepare new muscle memory takes a lot of time.Being the counsellor: To get the thought that I want to work on this area, and to get the processes right in the mind, is most important rather than teaching technique. To help them accept and understand the problem and then find the solution to sort out whatever the issue is, is crucial.

Then they also come in with energy and the commitment which is required, because the drills are many and it could be tiring. Helping the batsman understand: I try to keep it very simple. I try to go back to the basics.

Sometimes it is the easiest things that we neglect. I focus on things like the down swing for a batsman and on the timing rather than just power-hitting in a practice session also. During practice you should focus on action and reaction will happen.

Perspective on the timing vs power-hitting debate: It depends and varies from player to player. Some people are naturally like that. So we have to allow them to play their natural game, but at the same time they should know their responsibility for the team.

And the responsibility makes sure they focus more on the consistency. The T20 format demands power but you have to play intelligent cricket. Last year (2014) Robin was the highest run-getter.

Our goal was to hit more boundaries, not focus on the sixes which is what helped him to get there. To me, even in this format consistency is what matters most. Hitting a boundary minimises the risk.

It is about how you minimise the risk and so you have to play smart cricket. When your mind is focussed on hitting lots of sixes, you lose your shape as a batsman and then you miss your timing and your sweet spot. Hitting the big shots can work once you get the knack.

But in the first year, like it happened for Robin, focus on hitting more boundaries initially. It is difficult for a player like Robin, whose natural instinct is to want to hit a six. And that for me was the tough task, to prepare him mentally for that so he can score consistently for the team.

Working with various players: Raina, I think is a fine and intelligent player in this format. His statistics show that. There is consistency, he knows the need of the team and has his own plan.

Once a player has his own plan I don’t disturb it. I give inputs only if they have problem. With Ajinkya we worked on making the foundation strong.

The focus was more on technique, because many critics had said he can’t be a T20 player. But I feel that if your technique is strong and your mental make-up is right you can perform in any format. Rahane had said ‘he focuses on rotating the strike and waited for the occasion to score boundaries’.

Yes, singles will take pressure off and that’s exactly what he is doing. Rotating strike is what you can do with right technique; you can work on any bowler and any wicket, so that takes the pressure off. With Shreyas Iyer it was different.

I have been grooming him from a young age unlike Ajinkya, Raina, Naman (Ojha) or Dinesh (Karthik). I remember his first day at the nets. There is a lot of emotion attached, but I have to be tough.

I am also the one to criticize him a lot and he knows it. I also show him the way out and he has to follow that, and as long as he does that he will be fine. I think he handled the pressure of playing in the Ranji Trophy well.

I allowed him to play his natural game with a little correction on occasions regarding what will suit against a particular opponent or a particular wicket. The smartness is in playing your natural game but at the same time using common sense, that’s an area I am working with him. He still has a long way to go.

But I am ensuring that he enjoys this phase too. With Dinesh Karthik it’s a case of working more on his mental aspect. I think he also has tremendous talent.

Coming from the stables of Mumbai cricket, do you insist on playing copybook cricket and on batting in the ‘V’: I have to be practical and go with the times. Some players have confidence of playing in the wider ‘V’ so I allow that. As long as the batsman is in control of the ball it is fine.

It is important, but it is not necessary, he should look to play copybook cricket all the time. In T20 it is important that you deliver. If the player has got a lap-shot right many times it is difficult for bowlers to set a field for them.

They are then playing with the bowler’s mind. I believe that everything should be in a batsman’s armoury, and one should know when to use what. Working on innovative shots: If your basics are strong you don’t need so many innovations.

If you can’t hit a particular bowler on a particular wicket then you might need to innovate. You never see Rahane do too many things because if you get 13, 14 runs off 10 balls with normal cricket and do it consistently that would be good enough for any team. Some of those shots look good when you connect but when you don’t it doesn’t look nice and you don’t feel nice the way you get out.

With traditional cricket there are lesser chances of getting out. But we are open and it’s not like we are not practicing those. If situation demands it you should know how to play.

We may even innovate another shot; it is all about confidence. If you are the main batsman then you have to minimise risk and deliver. Batting at various positions: It is different in every position and every phase.

A batsman should understand that in every phase one big over can change the momentum. It’s not like all twenty overs are going to be effective, but one over in powerplay, one in middle overs and one in death can be very crucial when it comes to close games. Batsmen should make sure that once they are set they take charge in that one big over.

Playing in powerplay, a batsman is expected to give the team a good start. You have to have the correct technique to play with the new ball when you want to hit in the powerplay. For openers, as the anchor of the innings, make sure that you are there for long.

For that they may have to compromise with 10 to 20 percent of the strike rate. But it leaves the team in a good position with wickets in hand so that the death over specialists can come and deliver. In the middle-overs when the good quality spinners are bowling and fielders are on the boundary line you have to back yourself to clear them and in the death overs, T20 specialist bowlers bowl at you with variations; you need to back yourself then.

As a batsman, the mental make-up is important; the belief that I can do that job for the team is very important. Inputs to tackle the noise and pressure: Once your mind is calm you start taking right decisions. It is difficult, but also important to keep your mind calm in the noise and the pressure and limelight.

And once you start looking inward the concentration increases. It’s not easy and takes time to learn to blank other things out; but batsmen should be able to do that. When you are calmer, decision making and execution happens better.

One way is to listen to the sound of bat connecting with the ball. Every batsman likes the sweet spot; so I think he knows where he wants the ball to hit and where it is connecting. Coaching an IPL team: It is more challenging, to be honest, because the players are not only from all over India but also from overseas.

I am saying that because for six years I coached only Mumbai. Here, with the Delhi Daredevils, there are overseas players also and you have to take them to one goal - play as a unit and keep everybody involved. It is tough also because the squad is bigger than a state side.

Working with players on the bench: We have to take more care of them. You have to work more closely when they are not in form. Work on the mental aspects and give them that extra time to iron out whatever shortcomings there are and help them come back into the zone where they can deliver.

Working with DD’s unit: We were basically rebuilding when I came in. We have the best in the business, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Angelo Mathews, to name a few. At the same time we focussed cautiously on a Shreyas Iyer, Marcus Stoinis, Travis Head, who are only 19-20 years old and also Gurinder Sandhu, and hope they can grow with us.

Though some of them might not be in the playing 11, the bonds are created. The concept is to invest in a young team. We also have youngsters like Mayank Agarwal, Saurabh Tiwary and Jaidev Unadkat.

They learn from senior players as well as the coaches. Everyone’s role is to do well and win so they also know that there is a lot of responsibility. I had worked with Angelo Mathews and Yuvraj Singh in Pune Warriors India and with JP Duminy when we were part of Mumbai Indians.

So it was easy in that sense; the understanding is there. They know that when they require I am here to discuss or do whatever they need. It is easier when you know a player for three to four years.

Working with Gary Kirsten: I am fortunate to be able to work with him. He is the most successful coach and a well respected coach who has won the World Cup. I am learning how he handles the team.

There is always area for improvement for a coach also. There are many aspects you have to focus on, like strategies, planning, being a technician and the most important is being a motivator among other things. I am learning how to handle the team when it is down, which is where the coach comes in.

I think Gary is doing that difficult task. When we get time, we talk about batting, but first it is about planning to win and then the practice sessions. I am handling many of the domestic players.

In a practice session of two hours, for one person to look after everyone is not possible, so the workload is shared. .