As the cricket team readies itself for Inter IIT meet, T5E took the opportunity to interview it. Neema Davis presents excerpts from the unreserved interview.
Cricket Team: Sriram A R (captain), Shubham Atram, Mukil Venthan, Tirth Shah, Saket Kumar Jha, Rohit Khare, Abhishek Yadhav, Gnana Prakash, Shreyas Srinath, Gaurabh Singhvi, Aashish Lodhwal, Saurabh Awatabe, Venkat Dharavath, Ramesh Naidu, Ravi Kumar Allaparthi.
How are the team practices going on this year?
We have been practicing really hard this year. Most of us have been on the team for 2-3 years and will be graduating soon. So this is, perhaps, the best chance for us to win a medal. Because once the graduates leave, we will have to rebuild the team again from scratch. So we intend to give our best this year. We practice almost 6 days a week. On weekends, we play matches. For the last 3 months, the team has dedicated itself entirely to Inter IIT.
Main camps are crucial for individual development and team bonding. In main camps, we used to practice both in the mornings and evenings, for at least 5 hours. We make sure to put in a minimum of 2 hours of practice every day during weekdays and 5 hours during weekends.
Rains haven’t tampered with our practices much. Chemplast is an excellent practicing ground; as long as it doesn’t rain during a match, we can still have continue with the sessions.
Individually, every player has been working on his game. Starting out here, we were all novices. But all of us have grown, both personally and professionally, over the years.
How can the team improve on the fielding techniques?
During the semester, we have practice from 4 pm to 6 pm. After 6 pm, it is not feasible to continue the practice as it gets too dark. So we have to strictly start our practice by 4 pm. However, many of us have classes till 5.30 pm. If we could get floodlights for the ground, then the practices can continue late into the night. Many other IITs have this facility. Also,we have many postgraduate students who are interested in the game. But due to our strict practice timings and the absence of floodlights, they cannot join us often.
Over the years, we do believe that our fielding techniques have improved. After every match, we have a team meeting in which we analyze that match and discuss our mistakes. In the next match, we try to not repeat the same slips. The core team has been pretty much the same for the past 2-3 years. But, we all have improved drastically from our first years. In fact, we are the only team that practices and plays in both the even and odd semesters. While other teams restrict themselves to Schroeter practices, we have Sanmar tournaments also. So we practice almost all around the year.
Does the coaching staff display signs of good sportsmanship?
Our coach has been with us for the past 3 years now. So the team has a very strong bond with him. Whenever the team goes out for dinner or an outing, he joins us. Over the past couple of years, he has been a great mentor to all of us. No one on the team feels left out under his guidance. If any of us have a difference of opinion about any thing related to the game, we have the freedom to approach him and talk about it. He is quite open minded about such things.
On top of that, he is extremely experienced. He has played for Ranji trophy representing Tamil Nadu and Assam. Along with coaching us, he still plays outside. So, he thinks from the perspective of a player and this is quite evident in his coaching techniques.
Coaching a team is not about coming up with a single practice technique for the team. The coaching needs of each player is different. Most of us used to play cricket before joining the team and hence, have some basic knowledge about the game. So, as far coaching techniques are concerned, it is about understanding a person and working with that person at a mental level. In that way, he has been a great support for us.
How long has the team been together?
The core team has been the same for the last 3-4 years. 5 people joined the team last year. Our team is, in fact, pretty huge. Apart from the 15 players going for the inter IITs this year, there are 15 more who are unable to go for this match unfortunately. But we all practice together throughout the semester. So, when someone new joins the team, they don’t really feel left out.
How do you evaluate the team captain and his leadership?
Sriram is pretty cool! He comes up with really good techniques and puts in a lot of effort for the team. He makes sure that the team has everything it needs, from arranging practices to getting all the sport facilities delivered on time. At the same time, he has also evolved into a strong player.
He makes sure that he motivates everyone around him. He is a calm person who asks everyone to chill all the time. The team spirit and confidence always boost up under his leadership. In fact, we haven’t lost any of the practice matches in the main camp. Our winning percentage is actually quite high this year. Out of the 17 matches we played, we have lost only one or two.
The captain adds that the previous captain, Shubham had built a wonderful team and handed it over to him; all he is trying to do is fill in a couple of missing pieces here and there.
What do you anticipate to be the biggest challenge in the game?
The opening match. The first 3 matches are against Guwahati, Bombay and Kanpur. If we win those three matches, then we will go to the knockout sessions. Out of all the three, we feel Kanpur is going to be the most difficult. We will be facing Kanpur in their home grounds. So, it is us against the entire Kanpur contingent. We will be on our own there. It is going to be a high pressure game. But if we win this one, then hopefully, there will not be any other major obstacle in our path to Gold.
What is the team looking forward to the most?
We are hungry for the Gold! It is unfortunate that we could not host Inter IIT last year. Most of us being in our final year, we just cannot miss out on this opportunity now. And so, we will give our very best this time. We have had wonderful people here who helped us out and dedicated a lot of their time to this team and to this sport. The best way that we can repay them is by winning a medal.
We have worked a lot for this. It is not about the practices. Any team can practice for a month, a semester or an year and produce results. It is more about how this team has come together and evolved over the past 2-3 years. So we can’t find a single reason why we shouldn’t strongly hope for a gold this year.
What teammate of yours is most fun to follow on social media?
Checking Venkat’s Facebook or Instagram page is totally worth it for the photos he uploads. His Tinder profile is a special recommendation from the whole team.
Shreyas regularly posts his ‘stories’ on Instagram. In fact, on the first day of main camp, he uploaded photos of his breakfast on Instagram under hashtag ChampionsBreakfast!
What differentiates the present team from its contemporaries?
The team bonding. The main thing that differentiates us from our contemporaries is the bonding that we have developed over the years. In other teams, players get to know each other only in the main camps. But we had a sense of brotherhood right from the last year, not even this year.
What was the best advice you were ever given?
Every small thing that people say at the right moment matters. Advice we get after each match is instrumental to our improvement. Ironically, we get the best advice often after the matches we win. The advice and the ‘curses’ from our coach have really helped us a lot. We make sure not to repeat the same mistakes again. So the best advice would be “never to repeat a mistake”.
The cricket team hopes that it can bring a Gold back with them to Insti this time. We wish them all the very best.