The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘I’ve been learning from John’
- England-bound India A coach Patil believes the preparation programme can’t be faulted

Calcutta, June 14: Given his profile, coach Sandeep Patil is expected to receive as much attention as his India A players during their June 22-August 3 tour of England.

Left to himself, he would be happy if the likes of Shiv Sundar Das and Avishkar Salvi alone were thrust into the limelight. However, that’s probably easier said than done.

Of course, a fortnight into his first India assignment in seven years and Patil is himself pretty upbeat.

“Initially, I was a bit apprehensive… I wasn’t sure how quickly I could adjust to a wholly Indian environment but, thankfully, I settled down in a couple of days,” Patil, under whose guidance Kenya made the World Cup 2003 semi-final, told The Telegraph this afternoon.

Speaking from Bangalore, where the preparatory camp concludes Wednesday, the coach added: “That (Team India coach) John Wright and (National Cricket Academy bowling consultant) Madanlal have been contributing as a team has made it very comfortable… Then, the facilities at the Academy are fantastic.

“Indeed, the approach has undergone such a change. In our time, the camps would be for four-five days — an eyewash, really. Now, even for a A tour, it’s an 18-day affair. Nobody, then, can fault the preparation.”

Patil, who worked with India A and the colts in the early Nineties, was also Team India’s coach (cricket manager, as the appointee was then designated) for six months in 1996. After a three-year break, he was back in business as the Kenya coach.

That relationship ended when Patil decided on a return to his roots after the February-March World Cup.

“As I’ve said, this assignment is yet another challenge and I’ve been learning every day. In fact, I’ve learnt a few things from John and have been specially impressed by the way he goes about the players’ mental toughness aspect. That appears to be his forte,” he remarked.

According to Patil, he has been “focussing” on fielding as that’s an area where the scope for improvement is “immense.”

[Incidentally, a Pune-based physio will be accompanying the squad.]

“Twelve of the 16 players have already played Tests or ODIs and, so, this is a chance for them to forget having taken that one step back. Now, they’ve got to take that step forward and push the regulars. While doing so, though, their fielding must be top-bracket,” Patil explained, adding that young Parthiv Patel’s case was obviously “different.”

Parthiv, after all, is being sent exclusively to gain experience. He isn’t, for example, in captain Shiv Sundar’s boat.

The coach, however, declined to compare the A squad of the early Nineties and the present one.

“Look, the proof of the pudding is in its eating… So, I’m not going to sit in judgement merely after watching the players at nets. Let’s see how they fare in England where, as you know, conditions can change by the hour,” he pointed out.

Patil, by the way, didn’t agree that playing against the Counties only — there is no fixture versus England A — may not prove that demanding. More so, if the Counties don’t field the best XI.

“Look, exposure to the Counties itself is an opportunity and the players must grab this chance. Moreover, because of the weather being fickle, England isn’t ever an easy place to tour,” he countered.

Actually, it’s also an opportunity for Patil.

“Yes, it definitely is and I’ll have to move forward… Having said that, I do hope my renewal of the India links isn’t limited to this one trip,” he signed off.

Patil, clearly, will be in the fingers-crossed mode August 3 onwards.

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