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Coach who perfects pitch for colts

Jamshedpur, Jan. 5: He can well be called the Ramakant Achrekar of Jharkhand.

And, like every cricket coach worth his net practice, it is his dream to nurture a Sachin Tendulkar.

Meet Victor Joseph (56), the longest serving coach of the state colt outfit.

Currently, he’s mentoring his boys for the Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy, an important talent-hunting fixture of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Victor, a former Bihar Ranji opener, has not looked back since Jharkhand State Cricket Association handed him the reins of the Under-19 outfit in the 2004-05 season. And he delivered results, mostly with his out-of-the-box decisions in crucial matches.

Victor, also an employee of Tata Motors, started showing results just two years after taking charge. Jharkhand emerged runners-up in the Plate Group (read lower tier) in 2008-09 calender and qualified for the Elite Group. The state finished third in the Elite Group last year and is playing the quarter-final this season.

In fact, stories of Victor’s bold decisions are legion. And they have mostly helped the cause of Jharkhand’s cricket.

For instance, Ishank Jaggi hammered a blistering 128 off 78 balls after being promoted to open the innings in a one-day tie versus Delhi two years ago. Babul Kumar did a similar act against Bengal in a league fixture earlier last year.

Coaches generally adopt a conservative line of thought. But Victor begs to differ. Gambling with the batting order and introducing non-regular bowlers in matches is his USP. But his seemingly off-the-cuff decisions are actually based on careful assessment of his boys. “I make changes when something inside me tells that the decision will click,” Victor told The Telegraph in a free-wheeling conversation.

He said he started with “bold” decisions when he trained the Jharkhand Under-16 squad. “Once, I sent skipper Ashad Iqbal to bat at number 3. The youngster, who batted at number 7, was taken aback. But he came up with a fine 122 against Assam,” he said.

Victor’s decision to take Kaushal Kumar Singh in an Under-19 match against Himachal Pradesh two years ago also paid rich dividends. “Kaushal was a stand-by in the Under-16 side. I pulled him into my side. The leggie picked up six wickets,” he said.

Victor wishes to continue in the same vein if allowed to coach. “I just tell a particular player to pad up and open the innings or ask a tail-ender to bat up the order. I’m happy my wards have never argued. They are talented, courageous and accept my decisions sportingly,” he said, adding he was sure that some would play for India’s U-19 side.

“I also thank the JSCA for reposing its confidence in me,” Victor smiled. “That’s important for a coach.”

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