Ahead of the tour, field coach R Sridhar spoke about the Indian squad’s preparations, how they assess the New Zealand squad, how the pandemic has made them more empathetic and more.
How do you see the WTC final between India and New Zealand?
The final of the World Testing Championship is a clash between two tied teams. Both teams have played high quality cricket and I am sure the final in Southampton will be a hotly contested fixture. As for our squad, we will take this as another game and prepare with the same intensity as we do for any other clash.
Who are the New Zealand players to watch?
I don’t think New Zealand, or any side for that matter, is just a one-man army. They have top quality players, whether it’s batting, bowling, or even the field. We have faced them before and know what to expect from them. We will have our plans ready and it will all come down to how we execute them that day.
Is there any concern that the Indian team could be under-prepared ahead of the WTC final as New Zealand play a two-test series against England in the coming weeks?
I don’t think that not having playing time is a concern at all. I think being under-prepared could work in our favor because our players will be more than mentally ready. It’s like playing with an injury. When you are injured — you start to focus a lot more and are more alert from the start. In addition, our players have been playing non-stop cricket for a few months. It is unfortunate that the IPL had to be suspended. I’m sure the players are keeping fit during this quarantine period and will be fresh for the WTC Finals.
With players in quarantine — have you given them specific drills so they don’t rust?
I think our players are all professionals who maintain optimal fitness standards throughout the year. I did not give them specific exercises during this period of quarantine. I firmly believe that players know what works for them and what doesn’t. If I feel they need my intervention, I will certainly tell them. Plus, they know I’m always available if they need my help.
India play with SG balls at home and use New Zealand Kookaburra at home. With the WTC final being played with Dukes balls — is there a different approach in terms of training?
We have already trained and played with the Dukes’ balls so we all know what is expected in England. The experience of touring and playing in English conditions before will be very useful to us on our trip to England.
With young players like Shubman gill entering the team in recent months — how do you decide which field position is best suited for?
Most of the time when a new player comes in we know his strengths and weaknesses because we would have seen him play in the IPL or India ‘A’. My job as a defensive coach is to make sure his mindset is in sync with the national team. We also observe his hand-eye coordination, reflexes, the quality of his hands, his speed towards the ball and his ability to throw deep and the ball. We make sure to use these aspects and train young people to stay at their peak. Speaking of Shubman, I think he’s the most complete athlete I’ve seen. He is slim, tall, runs fast and has good hand-eye coordination.
How did the pandemic go for you personally?
I stayed home most of the time but was deeply affected by the hard times people went through due to the covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic definitely made me more empathetic. The past year has made me realize the value of life even more and never take things for granted.
In recent weeks, you have also contributed to helping those affected by the pandemic …
Yes, I have helped in any way I can. We are in a privileged position and it becomes our duty to help those who need it. I admire the way players like Virat Kohli, Hanuma Vihari, Hardik Pandya and many others have played their part in getting help to those in need.