India’s loss, South Africa’s gain

   By Satish Mishra ,  17-Oct-2019
India’s loss,  South Africa’s gain

The man who revived the sagging form of Ashes heroes, Steve Smith and Ben Staokes, was ignored by the BCCI but has been appointed coach by South Africa

The Ashes series is over, with both teams, Australia and England, winning two matches each. So, the winners of the last Ashes, the kangaroos, retained the trophy. Steve Smith and Ben Stokes turned out to be the star performers for their respective teams, Australia and England. It is, however, interesting to note that an Indian played the biggest role in this Ashes, for the performance of these two players was turned around by him. This also shows how critical a great coach can prove to be in the career of a player.
Recently, when the legendary Mumbai coach Amol Majumdar was picked as the batting coach of South Africa for the Test series against India, a lot of cricket lovers questioned this decision but now they know it was made. Amol is not just a player but a master technician himself.
It is necessary to mention here that Ramakant Achrekar, who taught Amol to make him a full-fledged coach, is the same coach who gave Indian cricket the gems like Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, and Praveen Amre. The South Africa team has just begun their tour and the upcoming three-Test series will be Amol Majumdar’s litmus test; its success, if it comes, will establish him globally.
Amol, who proved to be a rock while facing spin bowling, will teach South African batsmen how to face bowlers like Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav on Indian pitches. Amol was a gifted player, with an excellent technique, but he was always a victim of selectors’ bias and poor timing. Sachin and Kambli’s schoolmate, Amol was selected for India-A in 1995 along with players like Rahul Dravid, V.V.S Laxman and Saurav Ganguly. Dravid dominated the Test and Ganguly made a name in the ODIs, but Amol didn’t have a big score to show on the occasion.
But, today, he has a lot to show—as a coach. After two months of training, he instilled self-confidence in Smith and Strokes and taught them new techniques, and the results are for all to see. After the Ashes, and before the start of his contract with the South Africa team, Amol revealed a great deal in his conversation with this writer at his home in Andheri (East).
It can be said that it’s the misfortune of Virat Kohli’s team that they could not get his services. Amol is one such cricketer who not only proved his talent on the cricket field but has also been a topic of discussion among the national selectors at times. Sadly, he could not make it to the final list. This despite 30 centuries and 60 half-centuries in first-class cricket to his credit. In all, he scored 11,167 runs in 171 matches at an impressive average of 48.1. His technique was flawless. Not only was he ignored as a player but also as a coach. India’s loss has been South Africa’s gain.
After successfully clearing all the coaching tests in India, Amol passed the Level 3 coaching exam from Australia two years ago; only Lalchand Rajput could do that in recent years.
Recently, when Sanjay Bangad was removed as batting coach of the Indian cricket team for five years and fresh interviews were called, Amol also applied but once again lost. Vikram Rathore, who was removed from various posts of the Board for Control of Cricket in India due to conflict of interest, won the race. From playing for India to being national selector for five years, Rathore continued to be appointed coach and consultant to the BCCI and NCA, courtesy brothers-in-law Anurag Thakur and Ashish Kapoor. In spite of all objections and protests, Rathore has become the batting coach of the Indian team.
In his 20-year-long career, Amol has been the second highest run-scorer in the history of Ranji Trophy. He played his last first-class game against Maharashtra for the Andhra team in November 2013 and retired from first-class cricket in September 2014. After this, he turned his attention towards coaching and holds a ‘High Performance Coaching Certificate’ by the BCCI and Cricket Australia.
Apart from coaching India’s under-19 and under-23 teams, he has been the coach of Rajasthan Royals team in IPL. He also became the coach of the Netherlands team in December 2013.
During the South African team’s tour of India, Amol Majumdar will work with the coaching staff of team director Enok Nkwe which includes Vincent Barnes (assistant bowling coach) and Justin Ontong (assistant fielding coach). When asked about the appointment of Amol, South Africa Cricket Board (CSA) executive director Corey Ben Jill said, “Amol is perfectly fit for us. Amol has a very deep knowledge about Indian playing conditions and the challenges facing our batsmen. He has also helped us in our spin bowling camp held in India recently. He has already developed good relations with Aidan Markram, Temba Bavuma, and Jubera Hamza.”
Amol described how he worked on Smith and Strokes during the IPL as a batting coach at Rajasthan Royals. Amol said, “Steve’s technique had slowed down due to the ICC ban, and Ben Strokes was failing miserably in both Australia and the IPL after the ‘drunken battle.’ The focus of these two fantastic players was battered by the turbulent events, which neither they knew nor the coaches working with them. I found that Steve’s head was going up instead of coming in the line of the ball and because of this the follow through of his bat was going wrong. Similarly, Ben was confused about his off-stump and was being exposed again and again. These were both technical mistakes; it took several days and many hours of practice to overcome them. Steve was repeating the mistakes again and again but when I corrected the head movement by correcting his stance, he improved it 100 per cent during the Ashes and the result is there to see. Similarly, the result of Ben’s improved technique was visible during England winning the one-day World Cup championship to the Ashes.”
When this writer asked Amol about working with the Indian team, he said, “I also applied for the batting coach of the Indian team, but I was not considered worthy of the first three. Well, cricket has always been in me and I will continue to give it to others now.”
Amol, who spent decades on the pitch as a player, seems very exblockquoted about this new chapter in his coaching career.