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Rakesh Sharma to interact with probables
- In pushing for next level, Greg Chappell ropes in India’s only astronaut

Bangalore: The only Indian astronaut, Rakesh Sharma, will interact with the 2005-06 season Team India probables before the final conditioning camp concludes here on July 19.

Getting somebody who has “smashed all barriers” to mingle with both the regulars and the aspiring lot is part of coach Greg Chappell’s drive towards taking our cricket to a new level.

The July 30-August 9/10 tri-series in Sri Lanka is his first assignment and the build-up, clearly, is going to have a dash of the unusual.

Sharma, who rocketed into space aboard a Soyuz mission 21 years ago, was with the Air Force till 1990 and then joined HAL as chief test pilot. Four years ago, he moved to the private sector.

Expected to informally meet the Sachin Tendulkars on Saturday, during the first practice game between the probables, Sharma’s formal interaction will be slotted later.

“I expect the meetings to be interesting... Like other Indians, I’m passionate about our cricket team,” Sharma told The Telegraph on Wednesday evening.

Incidentally, he has played a fair bit of cricket ' (“I was a first-change bowler and a reasonable bat”) at the university-level and at the National Defence Academy.

A “big fan” of Bishan Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev in their playing days, Sharma now admires Rahul Dravid’s “consistency and dedication,” Sachin’s “focus” and the “exuberance” of Yuvraj Singh.

That Chappell intended getting the biggest achievers/barrier-busters to share their experience with both the established players and greenhorns was reported in these columns on July 3.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the probables were exposed to the Edward de Bono line of lateral thinking. Centrestage was taken by ‘Master Thinker’ Shiva Subramaniam of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

“It’s not rocket science, just a tool to add value... The more the number of people involved in the thinking process, the bigger the ownership of a game plan,” explained Chappell.

Essentially, the de Bono philosophy features six ‘Thinking Hats’: White (information), yellow (benefits), black (problems), red (feelings), green (creativity) and blue (worn by the controller).

“No one person can wear all simultaneously, but sub-groups may well be assigned different hats by the one who wears blue,” Subramaniam pointed out, adding: “It’s about getting more out of an intelligent mind... Enhancing confidence as well.”

The caps can be worn at team meetings, encouraging focussed participation. “If we keep doing the same things, we’re bound to get the same results... Hopefully, this tool is going to make the boys better cricketers and individuals,” Chappell remarked.

He continued: “The better you think, the better your game will be... After all, cricket is a sport where you’ve got to find solutions for problems...”

The two-hour session at the probables’ hotel wasn’t a one-off and Subramaniam’s help is going to be sought on a regular basis. Apparently, the TCS hasn’t ever worked with sportspersons before.

The impact, though, remains to be seen.

Footnote: Chappell took on the Team India-baiters, during a Media conference, and said he was “appalled” at all the “negatives in the market.” He added the boys deserved a much better deal ' “they have done well in the past and should do even better in the future...”

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