|Sunil Subramaniam in Chennai, on Saturday.
Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Left-arm spinner Sunil Subramaniam had a fairly lengthy first-class career and is the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) Academy’s head coach, but ward Ravichandran Ashwin has given the 45-year-old his biggest headline.
Ashwin, who returned career-best figures of seven for 103 in the first innings at the Chepauk, has done so by dedicating his six-wicket haul on Day I (Friday) to his personal coach.
Subramaniam, who played for Tamil Nadu and Assam, spoke to The Telegraph on Saturday evening.
The following are excerpts
Q Personal coaches are hardly ever mentioned, forget being thanked publicly. Did Ashwin’s gesture come as a pleasant surprise?
A (Laughs) But that’s the man... That’s Ashwin... His character, the man’s honesty... Look, everything came through last evening. He didn’t have to, but chose to dedicate his performance to me. He’s different.
How do you assess your contribution to Ashwin’s success?
I’ve just done my job.
It wasn’t Ashwin’s intention, but by thanking you, he hasn’t shown India’s head coach Duncan Fletcher and Joe Dawes, the bowling coach, in good light...
I wouldn’t like to comment. As I’ve said, I’ve done my job.
Why is it that personal coaches or even state-level coaches hardly get the recognition they deserve?
Beats me... They should be utilised better. The domestic coaches are creative enough, but must get opportunities. Don’t only look at the Levels they’ve cleared, but look at the personality they have... Also, if they have the skill to communicate. The best coaches should be in the state academies.
How often do you and Ashwin exchange notes?
Very regularly... After every match, for sure. Reviews are an important part of our relationship.
Well, what did you tell him after Day I?
I hugged him... There was little to say, for we’d put in the hours before this Test series.
What exactly did you correct in Ashwin’s bowling?
I made him get back to the basics... That does wonders... I advised him not to try too many things. The transfer of weight is important.
Could Ashwin get better?
Of course. He will.
You’ve been Ashwin’s personal coach for a number of years...
Yes... A coach-player relationship has to be on the lines of how a guru and his shishya go about their business. I’ve instilled the belief that he’s cut out for big things... I’ve given him the confidence. What he does on the field is all credit to him... Cricket in Chennai is quite like a family affair. If somebody is promising, we support him to the fullest. I’ve been coaching from 2006-07.
Is it a thankless job?
Depends... A coach has to love his job. If he doesn’t, then there could be an issue.
Have you had a role model coach, so to say?
No... In fact, when I was a player, I was anti-coaches... Probably because the coaches we had didn’t know their job... For me, the captain used to be everything. But I’ve since realised that there’s a definite place for coaches.
Is there an ideal way to coach?
In any creative endeavour, there can never be an ideal way. If the coach creates an ambience wherein he gets the respect and trust of his wards, then he’s done justice to his profession... He has to allow his wards to express themselves. That’s important.
What must a coach not do?
Must neither spoon-feed nor curtail the natural flair of the player(s) in question. The player(s) shouldn’t be made to conform to a stereotype.
You’re now in the news internationally. Are you looking at a bigger profile? Just how ambitious are you?
I’m ambitious, but not over-ambitious... I’d first like to set right Tamil Nadu cricket at the seniors’ level... We need to work there.
The final one... What has made Ashwin so level-headed?
(Tone of admiration) His upbringing, which has given him stability... Parents Chitra and Ravichandran have to be given credit.