New Delhi: He is one of the most successful domestic coaches in recent years but Sanath Kumar still can't figure out why most of the Indian Premier League franchises are wary of employing local support staff, which also includes trainers and physios.
The 55-year-old Kumar, a former Karnataka medium pacer, has carved a niche for himself successfully guiding relatively weaker teams in the national championships. While coaching minnows Assam to the Ranji Trophy semi-finals (2015-16 season) will remain one of the highlights of his career, guiding Andhra to Vijay Hazare (National One Dayers) is no less an achievement. Not to forget, Baroda's Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 triumph, a few years back.
Yet, after a three-year stint as an assistant coach with the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Kumar's services have not been sought by IPL franchises, which is quite baffling. Seven out of eight IPL franchises' top coaching/mentorship role is donned by foreign greats.
Chennai Super Kings has Stephen Fleming, RCB will be coached by Daniel Vettori, Delhi Daredevils has Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne is back at the Rajasthan Royals, Mahela Jayawardene continues with the Mumbai Indians, ditto for Tom Moody with Sunrisers Hyderabad and Jacques Kallis with Kolkata Knight Riders. The only Indian at the helm of support staff is Virender Sehwag in Kings XI Punjab.
"It's an Indian Premier League and the majority should have been Indian support staff. Look at Big Bash League (BBL) where you have majority of Australian support staff, Natwest T20 (England) has majority of Englishmen and Caribbean Premier League (CPL) use their local talent but it's only in India, we don't look at our own people," Kumar told PTI during an interaction.
Having closely observed the foreign support staff during his earlier stint with the RCB, Kumar is of the opinion that some of the Indian physios and trainers are at par with their foreign counterparts. In fact, one of Kumar's trusted support staff in Andhra team, Subhadip Ghosh, has been employed as an assistant fielding coach in the Delhi Daredevils.
"I strongly feel that some of our trainers, physios and other support staff are at par with all those overseas recruits. I feel we have an addiction for white skin," he said in a sarcastic tone. "I have seen in all these years that the franchise owners are happy to show off their foreign coach -- say a Ponting and it's not the case with Indian names," Kumar puts it bluntly.
He doesn't mince words when he says that he did not find any of the international coaches, he worked with at the RCB, "great" in terms of strategy or communication. "I worked with so many foreign coaches during my time in RCB. Starting from Martin Crowe, Ray Jennings to Eric Simmons. I didn't find anybody great. They were all very average (as coaches). I at least found their communication with players to be very poor," he stated.
But he did cite the pressing issues that make franchises wary of having big Indian names. "One aspect is that foreign coaches are more professional. The Indian big names normally would come to the ground with players while a foreigner would come earlier and get all the necessary equipment for training ready. They don't encroach on anyone's personal space and freedom. Hence unlike Indian coaches, there are fewer ego problems," he said.
Asked how different it is for an Indian coach to join an IPL team's support staff, Kumar gave a few pointers. "I don't think there is any coaching involved in IPL. In any case, most of the international players come with their own training schedules and strictly adhere to that. As a coach, it was more about asking a batsman 'ok what do you want from me?" And he will tell you 'well, I want some throwdowns,'" his suppressed grin said it all.