Despite qualifying for the knockout stages, the Faf du Plessis-led side returned to a mixed bag last year, although several players are making notable statements to the national team. . Dinesh Karthik’s career has received a second wind, pacing Mohammed Siraj returning from a lull, Harshal Patel joining and Shahbaz Ahmed won the first call to India.
In an exclusive chat with TOI, Mike HessonThe Bengaluru-based franchise’s director of cricket operations, spoke about the RCB’s players focus, new initiatives, upcoming young talent and future investment of the team.
RCB chose Shahbaz Ahmed when he was an unknown relative. How do you track his progress?
Shahbaz was a three-year project for us. It is important to realize that players develop at different speeds. Our reconnaissance system has identified Shahbaz and he has the qualities we are looking for, combat properties being one of them. He is a multi-skilled player, he wants to get better and has grown in our environment, surrounded by seasoned and quality players who are willing to give their time. for him. It is fortunate that we have a high quality coaching team led by Sanjay Bangar. We spend a lot of time on personal development plans. Usually, the player can be a commodity (in IPL). You get them for a year and you hope they score some points and win those points. We think differently. When we invest in a player, we want to see them grow and get a lot of pleasure from seeing them play for India. We wanted them to perform for RCB but it was a stepping stone for them to play for India.
How is his role defined at the franchise?
Shahbaz has performed well from a domestic point of view and is getting better and better. He played a number of games for us in different roles, so we narrowed it down and told him we wanted him to have a stick in the middle with a club and be able to attack. attack the hunter and control the gyroscope. From a bowling perspective, he can hit the ball in the power game and also in the middle. We’ve boosted his confidence by clearly defining his role in the team rather than the uncertainty of his place on the roster.
The previous IPL turned out to be a launch pad for Dinesh Karthik. How did he fit in?
DK comes from the wilderness. We talked about giving direction and clear roles. So he can plan with some real purpose. The results can be seen by everyone, not only in IPL but also in India. Before the auction, we contacted DK and found him very motivated to come and do well. He wants to join and push his case to play for India with a specific role. When we knew he was a highly motivated player who wanted to do better, worked extremely hard and we needed a finisher, we both came in. We made it clear to him what role we wanted him to play and told him this is one of the roles we want you to be an expert in.
Dinesh Karthik (Image Credit: BCCI/IPL)
Do you want him to fill the void left by AB de Villiers?
It is very difficult to get an Indian finisher. The role requires experience because there is a lot of pressure to absorb. We had AB de Villiers who excelled in the role but there are very few players like ABD. For us to have an Indian player fill that role, we felt we needed someone who could do it differently. DK is a different type of power player and not many people think of him as a power player. But we watched him closely from round 15 to 20 and he did well in those rounds. He hasn’t done well when given other roles (before RCB) and we feel he has a lot to offer.
After starting the monthly fiction camp, can you tell us about the process?
When we invest in a player, it’s a three-year cycle, when we choose to keep them. At the end of this period, we don’t want them to be the same players they were at the beginning. We want to grow them and see them grow. Each player is provided with an individual development plan (IDP). From their strength and condition point of view to their resilience, strength, skills and power-enhancing abilities. We offer support to them on an individual basis as it is not a generic program. We define their roles and responsibilities and work accordingly. Some players are not able to attend all the camps because of their national and cricket commitments, such players are provided with a platform to get in and out.
What do these camps entail?
Camps last 3-5 days depending on various factors like player availability, conditions, climate, etc. Lots of open competition sessions and pressure on them. We also try to have some practice games. This is also an opportunity for us to introduce new players to the system, rate them and see how they fit. This helps identify players we want to invest in in the future. With this, we also remove pre-auction tests. Cricket is about consistency and if you have a two-day camp bring 50-60 players, some exceptional players may not have a good day. So this is a platform where you bring players together in a common place over a sustained period of time and provide equal and enriching opportunities.
Camps are supervised by our team of coaches and support staff. Head Coach Sanjay watches the final camp. I’ll be there for the next one. We also have (Sridharan) Sriram. They are also skill specific. For the speed bowlers camp, for example, (Adam) Griffith will come. In addition to what we do in the field, we also conduct various tests like Dexa scans, blood tests, etc. We will also conduct them at various locations because we hope to go around. around India in the next IPL. Last time was at our home ground – M Chinnaswamy stadium and Alur stadium. The next game will be in Mumbai so the players can get a feel for the different conditions and surfaces.
RCB also has an internship program for students. Can you tell more about it?
During the IPL season, we have 12-15 trainees accompanying us. They help us practice, participate in warm-up games and during the net. These are the players we have identified through our scouting and we consider them potential RCB players. In the IPL window, we evaluate those players and give them aspects of their game to grow. Then we brought back some of them for these camps.