New coach duo have task cut out

Head coach P V Shashikanth and his assistant G K Anil Kumar look to revive Karnataka's glory days

New coach duo have task cut out

When Karnataka begin their campaign in this edition of the Ranji Trophy against Assam in Mysuru on Saturday, P V Shashikanth and G K Anil Kumar will have massive shoes to fill.

After they failed to win a single title for two straight seasons, Karnataka saw a change in the coaching set-up. The popular coach duo of JAK and MAK -- J Arun Kumar (head coach) and Mansoor Àli Khan (his assistant) -- were removed from their respective posts. The combination, which guided Karnataka to six titles between 2013-15, made way for Shashikanth and Anil.

For a team brimming with equal amount of talent and experience, the eight-time champions have flattered to deceive in the last two editions and the newly-appointed coaches will have their tasks cut out. There exists an air of curiosity as to how the pair will go about its business. Shashikanth says he is aware of the expectations.

“There is no doubt that JAK and MAK did a fantastic job. We have worked hard ever since we joined the team. I see our role as facilitators. I think we need to create a good atmosphere around the team to gain the desired results. There were certain things which were going awry and we believe we have set it right,” the former Karnataka batsman offered.

The fact that the duo holds good amount of coaching experience augurs well for them. Shashikanth and Anil have in the past helmed various age-group sides of Karnataka and together they were instrumental in putting the Karnataka U-23 team into the Elite group from Plate Division last year. Anil is confident of carrying forward the good work to the senior side.

“Shashikanth sir has been the State captain and has led legendary cricketers. He has the experience of handling teams. I have worked with the India U-19 team and we both have coached the Karnataka ‘A’ teams. We believe in working with a disciplined and meticulous approach,” explains Anil.

The duo perhaps also has an added advantage of nurturing the current set of senior players right through their junior days. “We have been working with these guys for a long time now. Almost 80 percent of the players were 13-14 years old when we started our coaching stint. They have been nurtured well and we have a good connect with them. We know them inside out, how they react to situations and how they are useful in different situations in a game. So it is like a journey of ten years. This will be really important for us to bind the team this year and it is a big plus point,” says Anil.

JAK and MAK did wonders for the Karnataka side with their enviable chemistry. The team achieved unprecedented success and players like K L Rahul, Manish Pandey and Karun Nair realised their goal of playing for the country.

Echoing Anil’s thoughts, Shashikanth says he shares a great rapport with his colleague. “We start with an advantage. We have an edge because we have worked with the players during their under-23 and under-19 times. Of course there are differences. Now they are no longer boys. They are men. It’s about man managing them. That’s where our role lies. As far our chemistry is concerned, we know each other from a long time. It’s like running between the wickets. I need not ask him anything. I just have to look at him and he is ready to respond. We have been working hard to serve Karnataka cricket.”

While there were standout individual performances, it was evident that Karnataka failed to click as a unit in the last couple of seasons. Their inability to fire as a group saw them fall short in crunch games.

Shashikanth asserts that regrouping the side was their main challenge. “We are trying to regroup the team and keep them motivated. Karnataka has got a rich history in cricket. Whenever players get selected for the State side, they dream of playing for the country. We need to get everyone together for a common goal and that’s the only way we can win the Ranji Trophy. When we won the title in 1995, around eight of them went on to play for the country. Similarly, following the stellar show between 2013 and 2015, many players got breaks. Thus the players must now once again perform well and try to win matches for Karnataka.”

Regaining the past glory will not be easy for Karnataka. There is no denying that they start one of the favourites and but R Vinay Kumar’s men will certainly be tested in their quest to win their ninth title. Both the coaches see this as an exciting challenge. “For a team that has won six titles in two years, for the kind of experience it brings in, the kind of depth we have, the season is certainly interesting and exciting. But we are looking at one match at a time. If we realise our potential and do the basics day in and day out then we can do wonders,” expresses Anil.

Shashinakth believes senior members of the team will have a crucial role to play.

“We have enough firepower and the senior members in the side will be of great help. They will make our job easier. Take Vinay for example. He has been around for ten years now. Our pacers share close to 800 first-class wickets between them. The senior campaigners will look to keep the team together and make them be on the same page,” concludes Shashikanth.


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