Back in 2019, R. Sridhar wanted to step down as the fielding coach of the Indian cricket team – after a five-year stint. However, he had to change his mind as Ravi Shastri, the head coach, wanted him to continue for another couple of years. So, Sridhar had to again apply for the job and clear the interviews before being handed the job for another couple of years.
And as his stint finally ended earlier this month, Sridhar is glad that he listened to Shastri and carried on after 2019 because that gave him an opportunity to work with Rishabh Pant and develop a ‘terrific bonding’.
“I am glad I did the interview because I had the opportunity to interact and develop a terrific bonding with this outstanding cricketer, Rishabh Pant. Over the last two years, I spent a lot of time with him and I am fortunate to have worked with him,” Sridhar told Sportstar.
Change in approach
While it was initially a challenge to train Pant, Sridhar soon realised that he needs to change his approach in a bid to to get the best out of the young stumper-batter. “In six months, I realised that my coaching style was not cutting ice with him. There is a lovely phrase in Level 1 coaching, “if the kids don’t learn the way you teach, teach the way they learn…” So, after reflecting between the two series [South Africa and Bangladesh at home], before going to New Zealand, I thought that it was a mistake from my end and I need to get more out of him,” the 51-year-old Sridhar said.
“So, I changed the way I coached him, something that suited his personality and fortunately, that clicked and we developed a very good relationship of trust and understanding.”
Having seen Pant grow as a cricketer, Sridhar was happy to see him fare well in the home Test series against England earlier this year. “We both could work very hard and one of the satisfying moments was the way he kept the wickets in the Test series against England at home. He is a sweet kid and the next big thing for Indian cricket. Most importantly, he is a lovely human being. I enjoyed working with him. So with Rishabh, the key thing was me changing my coaching style,” Sridhar added.
After spending seven years with the Indian team, Sridhar now wants to spend some time with his family and has also joined hands with Shastri and Bharat Arun to form a coaching company called ‘Coaching Beyond’.
“We are into the space of coach education, high-performance coaching for elite and semi-professional cricketers. And we are into the space of bringing technology into coach education as well,” he said. While the project will have its two pilot projects based in Hyderabad and Chennai, Sridhar also plans to work with an IPL team, if given a chance.
“At the moment, I am speaking to a couple of IPL teams. But I am waiting for Ravi Shastri to make his decision on whether he is going to join a team or not and then I will start moving on that,” he said.
“If given a chance, I will work with an IPL team and post that, I will work at the grassroots level coaching and development of coaches in India. I love working with kids and moulding them. Young kids are like wet clay, you can mould them the way you want. I have done that for seven or eight years before I joined the NCA. I loved doing that. I have not yet decided whether I want to do full-time international coaching assignments because I have been on the road for seven years and I need to give some time to my wife and daughter, who is ready for university now.”