Baba, I hit a century! Those were the words from my 8 year old daughter, Ira. I said, wow, well played, but didn’t took this as a serious one as it was just a child’s play. Few days later, again she said: Baba, I remained Not Out and won the match. I acknowledged her efforts, but again ignored it as another kid’s play. This saga continued for a month and that’s when I decided to go downstairs and have a look at Ira’s gully cricket with her friends.
Cricket Spark: When I looked her for the first time, I could sense that she has basic cricket sense as she was clearly playing way better than her friends. So, I decided to test her by asking her to play against my bowling. To make this bit more challenging, I decided to bowl full length and without being complacent I decided to bowl her with full speed. Don’t worry, I am not a Shoaib Akhtar, however for 8 year old my speed could have been felt the same way.
My first ball was thrown at full length and Ira hit me through the covers, second one was at good length, which she missed it because it bounced way above her head. So, decided to throw balls at full length and she was able to pick and hit the ball nicely. Next day, I again went downstairs and volunteer myself to teach cricket to all her friends too. I started with bowling drills – From standalone throws and then gradually doing the run up throw downs. While most of the kids were struggling at first step throw downs, Ira graduated herself quickly and started bowling with the full run up. I was convinced completely that she can play cricket.
I asked her: Whether she wants to play cricket as a sport? Without any hesitation and having all excitement on her face, she said Yes. That’s how our journey started. For Ira, it was about playing on the bigger grounds and for me, it was about learning the cricket in the right way
Yes, it was about learning cricket for me too! Although I have played lots of cricket in school, college and even now, we play cricket during every Diwali vacation, but when it came to coaching my daughter I realized that I wasn’t able to explain the technical things to her in a simple and effective way.
“I don’t know” – I have heard people saying this many times but the importance of these words was very significant when it came to coaching cricket to Ira. Irrespective of whether you are a Father, or a Coach or even a Teacher, you always ensure that you teach the right things and not the wrong ones to others. This became more pertinent to me because I realized that I didn’t played cricket in a right way. On the very first day of my coaching, I said those words to her “I don’t know cricket “, but I will learn it for you and thus the journey started for me too!
“How to hold the bat” – At age 43, I started learning on “How to hold the bat”, when most of the people retire and live peacefully. However, the passion drives you to do things differently and hence started learning the basics and then relating those things on what has happened in the past. During my cricket playing days, I have seen many friends holding bats in some weird way and thus weren’t able to bat freely. While I could point out the flaws in holding the bat, but couldn’t tell them the right way to hold it as I too never learned it. I don’t want the same mistakes to be repeated and hence I researched on YouTube on the ways to Hold the bat correctly, YouTube has so many contents
that it took me a week to absorb the right channels and videos to consume. Finally, I learned the magic of holding the bat in V. The discovery of holding the bat in V position made me very happy and I wish that I could rewind my life to playing years and have played the cricket using the V grip.
However, my happiness didn’t last for long because when I tried to use this technique to Ira, she was having trouble in holding the bat in V shape as her natural way was same as mine. Now, it made me nervous because I knew what was right vs. what was wrong. This was the moment, when we decided to go for professional coaching and we enrolled Ira in one of the local clubs.
Natural Instincts vs Trained coaching: We enrolled Ira into HK Bounce Academy, Pune and she was getting trained under Mr. Hemant Kinikar Sir, who I think is one of the best coach I have seen. His way of interacting with kids is amazing and that’s why kids love him and Ira too was a big fan of him.
When we both were discovering the cricket, it was obvious that some things were coming naturally to Ira and some things were being taught by her coaching academy. I used to observe Ira for the entire net session and learned the things which were taught by the coaches. Since the learnings at academy was a live session and hence to revise the same things, I used to go back to YouTube and learn the same at my own pace. Soon, I become addicted to the YouTube, watching 100s of videos related to the Cricket and started creating the plan on how Ira should advance on her skills. We learned the stance, head position, foot work, hand eye coordination, shadow practice etc together and we made our base stronger in one year time frame. Whilst, I made sure one thing never changed – her natural instincts!
During that one year time frame, Ira played various matches and she was showing improvement in every match, however she lacked the muscle power and hence wasn’t able to hit fours. This was creating some noise in back of our entire family’s mind and we all knew that it’s high time to play inside the boundary line
Mother’s love can cross any boundary: While I was accompanying Ira to cricket grounds, Shilpa too used to do the same in my absence and whenever there was a match, we all used to go and watch it together. While on our way to one of the cricket match against U-12 boys, Shilpa told Ira to hit the boundary, else she won’t come to watch her next game. That was enough for Ira to show her batting prowess and she hit 3 boundaries in that match as she loved her Mom more than her cricket. We both saw how determined she was to hit the ball beyond the ropes. That match also gave her first recognition as a batswoman.
Later on, she started gaining more popularity on most of the grounds as she used to be the only girl in the boys’ team who used to open the bowling attack and was also hitting boundaries to the toughest boys.
It was time for Ira to get ready for advanced level coaching and for the first time I felt that YouTube and its content was not enough to coach her for advance skills. When I say advance level, it means that a batsman can hit a same line and length ball in 5 different ways. Be it a square cut, straight drive, pull back foot drive etc.
Performance Analysis: This is the term most commonly used in professional cricket, where a performance analyst watch videos of players and basis of that make recommendations for improvement. We were also doing the same thing, albeit in a very simple way. Initially, we started with our phone camera features to record her practice sessions. The purpose of these recordings were to make sure that we remove all flaws by analyzing the videos from technical perspective.
Later on, we started using advance tools such as LongoWatch, Kinovea for doing the video analysis of Ira’s batting as these tools helped us to do comparisons of Ira’ shots vs how the best players in the world plays similar shots.
In one of the drill’s recordings, I found out that while playing the back foot punch drive, Ira’s back foot was not coming in the line of the ball and hence I thought it was not right. However, Ira insisted that she is doing it right. In such scenarios, comparing pictures always make sense as it removes the ambiguity from person’s mind.
I compared her back foot drives with the God’s (Sachin Tendulkar’s) back foot drive and I was surprised to see that she was right and her strokes matched with God’s strokes, thereafter I never questioned her.
While the above tools are quite matured, however I felt that lot can be done in a simpler way which can be consumed by kids by themselves. That’s when I decided that I can develop simple tools which can help Ira and even the budding cricketers to learn the cricket at their fingertips. This tool should be able to make the comparison by using machine learning algorithms and providing the right feedback basis of the problem which the cricketer is expecting. I hope that this will be beginning of a new phase for me from technosportive analyst, where I can contribute my ideas which can benefit others.
God’s ratings: Cricket is a religion and Sachin Tendulkar is God for all of us. So, it was obvious to include him in Ira’s practice session. I designed a ratings system to motivate Ira on her daily practice sessions, the basic ratings start with Good as you always want to make your child feel that she is Good and then next ratings is Better, Best, Great and Finally the last ratings is called God. This ratings system has helped Ira to improvise herself faster as she always wanted to achieve the God’s ratings every day. In order to achieve God’s rating, she shouldn’t make a single mistake during her batting sessions and so far, she has achieved this rating for 50% of the time.
Success Trap: When you know that your kid is playing well and everyone else is talking about your kid, it becomes natural that you become too possessive about her success and that’s the trap which I avoided. I ensured that she remain like a kid and also enjoy her childhood by playing other things. I hope that she would never get into this success trap and enjoy her cricket as well as other things freely in her future life. Signing off – Sachin Jadhav, Father of Ira Jadhav (10 years old budding cricketer).