An Indian hand in a big Indian defeat

Cricket : Aussie spinners benefit from Sriram's inputs

An Indian hand in a big Indian defeat

 For all his domestic exploits, Sridharan Sriram’s international career was quite underwhelming.

The left-hander accumulated 9539 first-class runs at an impressive average of 52.99 with 32 tons and 36 half-centuries. He took 85 first-class and 115 limited-overs wickets as well. His India career, though, didn’t reach the desired heights.     

The Tamil Nadu player netted just 84 runs and nine wickets in the eight one-day internationals he played between May 2000 and December 2004 before slipping into oblivion. But what he couldn’t achieve as a player, Sriram is accomplishing as a coach, though his first major success may have come at India’s expense.

Sriram is a spin bowling consultant to the Australian team and his inputs have made a telling difference to tourists’ spinners’ fortunes. Steve O’Keefe, who acknowledged Sriram’s influence in improving his bowling skills, claimed the best figures (12/70) for a visiting spinner in India as Australia thumped hosts by 333 runs inside three days of the first Test here on Sunday.

"I am really happy for the Australian spinners,” he said, dismissing a question on torn loyalties in this professional era. “I think they deserved it for the work they have put in over the last few weeks leading up to it. Over the last two years I've been with them, I've been very keen to come and make a difference to Australia and I am very happy for them," said Sriram who also worked as one of the mentors of the Australian team during last year’s World T20 in India and had assisted Australia ‘A’ team in Chennai in 2015.

The 41-year-old, who started off as a talented left-arm spinner before turning into a prolific opener, has a big role in preparing the Aussie spinners for the Indian conditions. He worked with them in Dubai on various surfaces, polishing their skills to suit the Indian conditions.

"You prepare for the worst,” he said when asked as to what kind of pitch he expects in Bengaluru, the next Test venue. “Then if you get the best, you go for it. But I think the preparation in Dubai was excellent. We prepared different tracks. We made a rough. We made rank turners. We made slow and low pitches. So I think it was a great preparation in terms of trying different surfaces and being prepared for whatever you get."


There was a hint of annoyance when it was pointed out that he did much better as a batsman than as a bowler and hence if he was ideal for the spin consultant’s job.   
“I think you don’t know me,” he said. “I started as a left-arm spinner, played India U-19 as a left-arm spinner, and I know what it is to fail as a spinner as well. So, I think that’s really more important than to really know what you did to succeed. I became a batsman later, only at the age of 19-20. So till the age of 19, I went through the grind of domestic cricket as a spinner. So, I pretty much know what it feels like to bowl spin in India and do well and not do well. So I know both sides of the coin which has helped me,” he remarked.

Sriram has been working with O’Keefe since 2015 when the left-arm spinner came down to India as part of Australia’s ‘A’ team.

"I have not been with him right through but I've seen him in patches after that (A tour),” he said of O’Keefe.

“The good thing is, you can even follow him bowling in the Sheffield Shield game because I can see it on Cricket Australia's website. I can see what he's doing. So, I think he wanted it (the opportunity) badly. He knew that he was the sort of subcontinent expert that the Australians were looking for and he knew that he had to play over here, so I think he sort of stepped up to that beautifully,” he offered.

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