The Cricket Coach

by Kaushik Das Gupta

It is a beautiful summer in South Australia. Sunny is sitting under a Sydney Red Gum tree wearing his cricket blue jacket, white pants and hat. Club season started at the beginning of October. Green grass, cricket players in their whites and a white picket fence. A real Aussie cricket scene, like the Ken Duncan painting in Double Bay International Hotel.

Sunny is thoughtful and feeling nostalgic about The God of Cricket, Sir Donald Bradman, how he played cricket since childhood to be the best in the world. The legend lived in South Australia.

Sunny is watching the local cricket match for under-18 with keen interest. The sun is strong but the cricket game is interesting. He qualified for his cricket coaching certification two years ago and is happy to coach young talent. His dad had left him for eternity, but cricket has not.

Sunny has in his mind how grateful he will be if can bring a young, wild Aussie talent to that world class level and have that under his belt .

Sunny sits under a tree observing Will’s forward strokes and swing. Will is playing a Saturday cricket match in Salisbury Cricket Club Ground. He plays for Inglefarm Cricket Club in South Australia, one of the oldest clubs in that State. His swing had once made Sunny from Bengal a First Class and a National Cricketer. He likes the way Will plays and he sees a great potential for him to be a State player.

 

What Will loves about his cricket club is the great friends he had made. The club infrastructure, brilliant coaching facilities and gym provides him with a location to be with his friends with a love for cricket. The Club is  proud of producing boys who played for the National Australian Team. His love for cricket, has seen Will play against eighteen of the forty other cricket clubs in Adelaide.

Sunny opens his wrapped up chicken lettuce sandwich, only to remember his father who used to wrap him French toast with egg and bread before his cricket practice at Vivakanda Park in Kolkata. His childhood never lets go. Cricket has been a constant in his life. Just like his cricket idol, he lives his life and plays cricket with complete mental freedom. The freedom that allowed him to be who he is today. The more he played cricket , the more he had realised his strength, passion and capabilities.

Sunny has been part of Adelaide cricket for a very long time. Sachin Tendulkar was invited to have dinner with his cricket idol at his house. Tendulkar’s 148 not out at Sydney and 114 in Perth did deliver to everyone’s imagination. As he scored to a dizzier height, Tendulkar came to Adelaide. Sunny is ecstatic to see his cricket heroes in the front page of an Adelaide newspaper.

Adelaide City is where Sunny loves to play cricket, he wishes one day he could meet his cricket idol. He has taken Will and others to watch some of the eighteen teams from  Adelaide Turf Cricket Association who compete against each other in matches and Premierships.

Ingle Farm Cricket Match

A few months ago, after a practice on one of the four lush green practice pitches, Sunny took Will to buy a cricket bat at the Greg Chappell Centre. In the Gillespie centre, Sunny showed a bat to Will. “What about this bat? It will be great to swing the bat.”

“It’s a bit heavy for me.”

They looked at a second and third, finally Will found the right one. Sunny checked that it was an Australian made Kookaburra cricket bat. It reminded him of his teenage cricket years in Kolkata.

Sunny was privileged to study at Point High, one of the best schools in India South. The first co-educational private institution in Asia which has a Nobel prize winner, a film director and a corporate heads as alumni. Nonetheless, he loved playing cricket with local boys in Mandeville garden, Ballygunge, while they talked about the wondrous tales of that inspired liar, Sir John de Mandeville, after whom the suburb was named.

Sunny found his fountain of joy, cricket. He played cricket so well that the  tile-roofed bungalows in his suburb were under attack from Sunny. He swung  his bat so hard that it broke the Burmese teak framed glass window of one Bungalow, destroyed the earthen flower pot of another and broke the picture rails of yet another. The Duce ball was hard enough to do the damage but not hard enough to stop Sunny swinging his bat. It caused damage to Imperial Tobacco’s Will’s  Bungalow at Number 16, the Thai consul in Number 18, and the Halders’ Bungalow with the mango tree at 21.

He was so proud of his achievements that he would roam like a Royal Bengal tiger in Mandeville Gardens with his cricket bat in one hand and his Thumbs Up in his other hand. He had all the published articles of his hero on his wall, it looked like a scene from the movie Catch Me If You Can. As if he was keeping a close eye on his suspect, the best cricketer in the world. One piece of information was very much of interest to him that was an article about his 99.9 test average of Sir Don.

It is the interval.

Will comes over to Sunny, “Was the swing ok?”

“Yes. Just watch the ball before hitting to guide it to the director, that will give you four. For Outswing Grip the rim of the ball lightly with two fingers, spread them, wrist straight in the middle covering the ball, shiny side of the ball pointing towards leg side of a right handed batsman, release the ball with index and second finger.”

Will drinks some water. “That’s my aim.”

“Which Uni are you going for ?” Sunny asks.

“Not sure yet.”

Andrew, the wicket-keeper calls out, “Will, come on.” He wants Will for a team discussion. Will leaves.

Sunny has faith in Will’s ability and believes that Will can have a great career as a sportsman. Will’s parents are divorced. His brother Henry loves cricket but he is wheelchair bound.

Will spends his time with his brother in between cricket, school, and more cricket. They have fun in their own way. One day, when Will was coming home with Henry after school. During the long walk from school to home, Henry said, “Will, let’s play a game?”

“What game?” Will had asked.

“Let’s employ tools of the trade to surnames of Test cricketers and identify them in batting order.’

“Great idea.” Will agreed.

“Vijay Merchant (India), Alastair Cook (England),” Henry began.

“Graeme Smith (South Africa Captain), Steve Smith (Australia, Vice-Captain),” Will continued. They took it in turns to list the names.

“Keith Miller (Australia), Ken Archer (Australia), Farokh Engineer (India, wicket-keeper).”

“Colin ‘Funky’ Miller (Australia), Malcolm Marshall (West Indies), Ian Bishop (West Indies) and CTB ‘Terror’ Turner (Australia).”

“I’m impressed,” Will said.

Will and his brother are close to each other.  He doesn’t often see his dad. Whenever he does, they both have a great time watching David Warner’s instragram updates showing his Indian dancing skills while having fun with his family. They argue about who should be number One in world Test Cricket: Australia or India. They both love Virat Kohli’s batting style.

That is how Sunny used to be with his dad. He remembered his dad supporting him during his entrance in the under-16 Charms Cup in School Cricket. As he became Man of the Match in the finals and Man of the Series; scored two centuries in the tournament and took fifteen wickets. His dad had cooked his favourite Bay of Bengal tiger prawns for lunch. During the lunch Sunny’s dad who worked with Kolkata airport authority had said, “The only time this Australian batsman had ever set foot on Indian soil — just for a while — was not by choice but because of circumstances. In 1953, on his way to England to cover the Ashes for the Daily Mail, his aircraft had to land at Kolkata airport for refuelling. The news spread like wildfire across Kolkata. He made his way to a quieter room in Kolkata airport, I only got a glimpse of him.”

Sunny and his dad had the same hero, who captured all their imaginations about the great qualities of a batsman. The Kolkata cricket season kept him busy through his teen years into adulthood. He played in the streets of Kolkata from Lake Gardens to Ballygunge Fari and from Bagbazar to Patuli. One day when he was playing Under-19 School Cricket, he even changed to becoming a wicket-keeper, scored three centuries in a row and won the match single-handedly.

Durga came with her brother Shiva who was playing against Sunny. It was love at first sight during a cricket game. He took his eyes off the cricket ball to admire Durga’s beauty!

He loved watching the Ashes test series. He remembered when Gavaskar toured Australia in 1972-73. He was advised by his Australian hero to try and find the perfect blend between defence and attack. When Gavaskar went on to break his world-record of thirty-four Test centuries, Sunny was born. Through his cricket life Sunny took his cricket hero’s advice to heart. He mastered his batting defence and attack style. He didn’t shy away from being the Champion of Bengal and was selected for Under-19 State team. In Kolkata, he  made leading performances with two Man of the Matches. Without his knowledge, a representative from a major Cricket Club was observing Sunny and ended up inviting Sunny to tour the UK with them. Sunny signed a contract with good remuneration as a “PRO” in the UK. He didn’t worry about higher remuneration and star facilities but about playing professional cricket. Sunny spent his time practising cricket with the team. His practice in foreign soil, did not stop him from what he wanted to achieve. He became the Cup Champion and then went to Premiership. He travelled with left arm spinner Bongi and wicket-keeper Richie in Wales and Ireland. One morning at breakfast one of them said, “Sunny, remember a good cricketer never stops playing cricket and training others.”

Ingle Farm Cricket at Night

Sunny looked up from his scrambled egg, bacon, English cheese and buttered toast and said, “Richie, that is my plan, too. To train others.”

Richie would take Sunny to senior practices on Wednesdays, Thursday quiz night or magic night, as well as a friendly beer on Friday night at the local club. One particular Friday was different. Instead of spending time at the club, Sunny spent time correcting his defence and attack for hours with Richie at Friday Senior team practice. On Saturday he was selected for matches. He played T20 Blast on Tuesdays for a Cricket Club and won Man of the Match in the Final, to win the Championship. He followed Richie’s guidance and completed his free coaching Level 2 Diploma and was coaching Under-13 and Under-15 Liverpool County Boys. That was the beginning of his cricket coaching journey.

Sunny wants Will to play in university cricket like him. Sunny has written down his next few years’ plan for Will as a coach. It is not every Indian who migrates to Australia who has time to be a cricket coach, to improve cricket for young Australians. Sunny is passionate about it. After all, he has played for Kolkata University Team — Champion In East Zone. Within a short time, he was selected as the only wicket-keeper/batsman from Kolkata to represent East Zone and All India University – a three times Kolkata University Blue — scoring 119 not out against BNR ( Bombay Nagpur Railways), 127 against SE railways, and  against Rangers.

In Adelaide in 2019,  Sunny was getting ready for an Annual dinner, as he watched his favourite quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati (Who wants to be a millionaire? or KBC) on Sony TV. When the contestant did not know the answer, Sunny yelled out G Kishenchand! But unfortunately Sunny was in Adelaide. He walked away from the television.

After fifteen minutes’ drive, Sunny arrived. All he could say to Will at the annual dinner was, “Cricket is for life. No matter what you do, you can still play cricket. I did my Masters in Accounting, CPA, worked in Australian immigration, opened my own accounting firm which managed a fleet of 250 transport and leading operators – and am a busy restaurateur. And I still coach cricket.”

Will said, “That is a lot.”

“Playing cricket parallel to your professional and personal life will give you physical strength and mental freedom.”

Sunny finished his Level 2 Cricket Coach Diploma under Cricket Australia and spent his spare time coaching Clubs in South Australia.

As he watches the cricket game, he remembers 2015 when he played his first club cricket game in Australia and took a local team to the finals of the Championship with Man of the Match in the Semi-finals against the strongest team of the tournament.

Three years after that, he started playing for Ingle Farm District Club squad. He scored an unbeaten 147 not out and won the match single-handedly against Prince Alfred College.

As he sits under the tree, Will’s mum, Liz comes over to talk to Sunny.

“How have you been?” Liz asked.

“Good. Thanks.”

“I really appreciate what you are doing for Will. Has he given you the good news?”

“What good news?”

“Will has got into Adelaide Uni with a scholarship to play cricket,” Liz said.

“Are you for real!”

“Yes.”

“The bugger hasn’t told me. It is time for a celebration!”

***

K Das Gupta

Kaushik Das Gupta (Cricket Coach and restaurateur, SA) is a First Class and National Cricketer from Bengal and lives in South Australia. He has been involved with cricket since his childhood. Most of his childhood he lived in Kolkata. From India, he moved to Liverpool, UK and finally settling down in Adelaide, Australia. No matter where his life takes him, cricket and his family are the two constants in his life.

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