Ahead of the tour, fielding coach R Sridhar spoke on the Indian team’s preparations, how they assess the New Zealand side, how the pandemic has made him more empathetic and more.
How do you see the WTC final between India and NZ?
The World Test Championship final is a clash between two evenly-matched sides. Both teams have played top-quality cricket and I am sure the final in Southampton will be a very well-contested encounter. As far as our team is concerned, we will be taking this as just another game and prepare with the same intensity that we do for any other clash.
Who are the players from the NZ side to watch out for?
I don’t think New Zealand, or for that matter any side, is just a one-man army. They have top-quality players be it in their batting, bowling or even fielding. We have played them before and know what’s to expect from their side. We will have our plans ready and it will all boil down to how we execute them on that given day.
Is there a worry that Indian team could be under-prepared ahead of the WTC final while NZ will play a two-Test series against England in the coming weeks?
I don’t think not having game time is a worry at all. I feel being under-prepared could work in our favour because our players will be more than ready mentally. It’s akin to playing with an injury. When you are injured — you begin to concentrate much more and are more alert from the word go. Also, our players have been playing non-stop cricket for the last few months. It’s unfortunate that the IPL had to be suspended. I am sure that the players are keeping themselves fit during this period of quarantine and will be fresh for the WTC final.
With players in quarantine — have you given them specific drills so that they don’t become rusty?
I feel our players are all professionals who maintain top fitness standards right through the year. I haven’t given any specific drills for them during this quarantine period. I strongly believe that players know what works for them and what doesn’t. If I feel they need my intervention I certainly will tell them. Also, they know I am always available if they need my help.
India play with SG balls at home and NZ use Kookaburra at home. With the WTC final to be played with Dukes balls — is there a different approach training-wise?
We have trained and played with the Dukes balls before and so we all know what’s expected in England. The experience of touring and playing in English conditions before will hold us in good stead during our trip to England.
With young players such as Shubman Gill coming into the side in recent months — how do you decide which fielding position he will be best suited for?
On most occasions when a new player comes in — we know his strengths and weaknesses as we would have seen him play in the IPL or in India ‘A’. My job as the fielding coach is to make sure his mindset is in tune with the national team. We also observe his hand-eye coordination, his reflexes, how good his hands are, his speed to the ball and ability to throw from the deep and ball sense. We make sure to use these aspects and train youngsters to stay at the peak of their abilities. Talking about Shubman, I feel he is the most complete athlete I have seen. He is slim, tall, runs fast and has got good hand-eye coordination.
How has the pandemic been for you personally?
I have stayed at home most of the time but have been deeply affected by the tough times that people have been going through due to the covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has definitely made me more empathetic. The last one year has made me realise the value of life even more and to never take things for granted.
The last few weeks have seen you do your bit to help those affected by the pandemic as well…
Yes, I have been helping with whichever way possible. We are in a privileged position and it becomes our duty to help those in need. I admire the way players like Virat Kohli, Hanuma Vihari, Hardik Pandya and many others have been playing their part so that help reaches those in need.