JASPRIT BUMRAH IS one of the greatest bowlers Indian cricket has ever produced. But, a traditional coach would be appalled while watching his bowling action for the first time. Thankfully for India, all of Bumrah’s coaches, clearly, developed him well. Bowling coach Bharat Arun oversaw the pacer’s integration into the national Test team during the Ravi Shastri regime. Asked to what extent coaches should follow textbook technique, especially since India now has a world-class bowler with an unorthodox action, Arun simply asks: “Why reinvent the wheel?”
“Everything is on a case-to-case basis,” he says. “A bowling action is as unique as somebody’s handwriting. If you look at the 50 best fast bowlers in the world, no one’s action is the same. You cannot classify as do this or do that, but you need to understand the different styles and blend the style as close to the basics as possible. That is what we do at the academy.”
“The academy” is Coaching Beyond, the brainchild of Shastri, Arun and R. Sridhar, India’s fielding coach during Shastri’s tenure. “We felt we needed to strengthen the grassroots,” says Arun. “It was a big challenge for all of us to do the international circuit and then go immediately to grassroots.” It may have been a big challenge for them, but it is surely a bigger opportunity for young cricketers and the three stalwarts are determined to deliver a world-class experience.
Coaching Beyond has two centres―Hyderabad, launched in March 2022, and Chennai, which opened a few months later. The academy has in-house physios and strength and conditioning trainers, and personalised diet and nutrition plans. Dr Kinjal Suratwala, former head of coach education at the National Cricket Academy, helps trainees with the mental side of the game. Sridhar and Arun lead the Hyderabad and Chennai centres, respectively, and Shastri visits when possible.
The academy has close to 500 students, including students enrolled through school associations, at the two centres. Trainees are enrolled after a selection process and the fee starts (group training) at Rs12,000 per month. More specialised or personalised training options are also available. Coaching Beyond has also tied up with Hindustan Unilever to develop women’s cricket and has selected 25 girls each from Tamil Nadu and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for a scholarship, under which they will be trained for three years. The academy also offers 10-12 day camps in which the skill and fitness of players are evaluated and they are given a path forward. These players can also contact the academy through video calls later.
The next logical step, it seems, would be expanding and opening more centres. But, Coaching Beyond has a grander vision and a bigger mission. “It is also about coach development,” says Arun. “We have a vibrant coach development programme and already around 500 coaches have been qualified through it. But, India will soon need more than 20 lakh qualified coaches and there are only around 5,000. So, the only way we can reach out is through the online platform. So, soon, we will be launching the coach education portal.” The coaches would be given a subsidised rate of Rs10,000 for the 14-hour online course. There is also a six-day, brick-and-mortar option. The class would be followed by a theory and practical exam.
Shastri and his team taught the national squad how to win Tests abroad consistently. Now, they are out to revolutionise the domestic talent pool.