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‘Injuries make players insecure’

The Indian team have always had a bunch of individuals who know that they've reached a certain level and desperately want to do better, says bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad in an interview to the Indian Express.

It was soon after India's return from the 2007 World Cup in West Indies, with optimism at its lowest ebb, that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to appoint Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh as the bowling and fielding coaches, respectively, of the Indian team. India went on to win the Test series in England, the Twenty20 World Championships and the one-day series in Australia. Meanwhile, Gary Kirsten came on board as the team's new coach. Prasad spoke to The Indian Express about the last year, and the road ahead. Excerpts...

How has the journey been as a coach, first with the U-19 team and now as India's bowling coach?

It's been a wonderful graduation. The maturity levels, naturally, were different and hence the interactions, too, were so. The Indian team have always had a bunch of individuals who know that they've reached a certain level and desperately want to do better. Be it Ishant Sharma or Praveen Kumar, or even Sreesanth and RP Singh, who had been around for a while. None of these boys was willing to take things lightly. They know the competition and, as a coach, I never had to remind them.

The word 'injury' is one of the most terrifying word in Indian cricket...

It's true. The word is a sort of signal that begins to spread uncertainty all around. What people need to remember is that injuries happen at every level. Why just cricket, look at any sport. As a coach, or even as a former player, what I suggest is that when a player is going through troubled times, he needs support. When a player has given his best and has injured himself, it is my responsibility as well as that of his team mates, the BCCI, the selectors, to ensure that he is taken care of, ensure that he feels secure, that he doesn't need to hide his injury. The player should be convinced that he's good and, once the injury is over, he'll make a comeback.

How big a problem is insecurity?

At the highest level, insecurity will always be there and, in some ways, it's a positive thing. If you're not insecure, there is always a chance of getting complacent. You have to know that if you don't perform, there are others waiting to grab the opportunity. Look at what happened when India returned from the West Indies World Cup in 2007. First, the team was in the dumps and then there were recurring injuries. But going by the way Zaheer Khan and RP Singh performed in England and stayed out - either partially or completely - from the Twenty20 World Championship and the tour of Australia, there was no fear. They knew they had done well and had the maturity to understand that a break was equally important.

How does a coach help in making players secure?

As a coach, the more important part of the job is to ensure that your players start believing in you. For that, there has to be a continuing relationship. A few seniors in the squad know me well. Players like Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid - since we played together - give me good support and confidence. But it's my responsibility to ensure that the youngsters start believing in me, that they share their troubles and joys with me. A good coach is the one who understands his players.

Did you expect Ishant to fill Zaheer's shoes so easily in Australia?

In England, it was so important to cut the swing. Zaheer led the way at Trent Bridge and RP Singh followed. It was a wonderful opening attack. In Perth, Zaheer's experience was missing. Ishant had just returned after a five-wicket haul against Pakistan in Bangalore. He was very positive and I remember talking to him the evening he took those five wickets. He just wanted to do well, on whatever platform he got. It's just that the next immediate assignment was Australia. It wasn't the Perth wicket but his confidence that mattered.

You once got Andrew Hudson caught off a leg-cutter in the Titan Cup. Kirsten was at the other end. Does he remember?

When I was in Australia, I met Gary and we talked about that dismissal. It was a conversation that happened by chance, but he remembers it. He says he was impressed by the change in pace.

You played only Tests and one-dayers. As a coach, how did you cope in Twenty20 - your team finished in seventh place?

Why just Twenty20, even when powerplays were introduced in one-day cricket, it was about learning. The game is changing. What I needed to do was to ensure that I'm in line with the trend. As a player or even as a Level-III coach, I have my basics in place. The sole idea is to improve with time and keep up with the trends. I gave myself time and freedom to learn when Twenty20 or even the concept of powerplays changed, discussed it with my players - which is very important - and was able to learn and get better.

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