ICC T20 World Cup 2022: Helping Arms - Men who prepare Kohli, Rohit with 150-plus throwdowns
While Virat Kohli has lit up the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup, Rohit Sharma is yet to fire. Meanwhile, we analyse the men who prepare the lads with 150-plus throwdowns during preparations for a game.
By Kushan Sarkar
Appearances can be deceptive, and the notion sits well with the Indian cricket team's three throwdown experts, who have contributed enormously to the batters' success in recent years. One resembles a heavyweight boxer, and the other looks more like a footballer plying his trade in a divisional league in Kolkata. The third person in the pack looks as frail as one can get, but he too, like his two colleagues, can ratchet up speeds over 150-155 km/h with the robot arm (the throwdown device that the Indian team uses) from 18 yards. Meet Sri Lankan Nuwan Senaviratne, Dayanand Garani and Raghavendra aka Raghu, who are integral to Team India's preparations.
These three have some job at hand. Former fielding coach R Sridhar, who himself slipped in some quick deliveries with the device, gave an insight. "Top batters like Rohit or Virat, apart from playing net bowlers, on an average face 150 to 200 odd throwdowns in a single session, depending on their requirement," Sridhar informed PTI about the kind of work that goes on in preparing for big games.
The roboarm is cricketing equipment shaped like a long spoon, with its far end designed to hold and hurl the ball at incredible speeds. The throwing stick used for the purpose has some similarities with a selfie stick, as the length of the handle can be adjusted as per requirements.
Their task is one of the toughest as they need extreme upper body strength, powerful arms and wrists to do what is required. Despite his pint-sized structure, Raghu throws vicious bouncers, and all those who were at the Feroz Shah Kotla a few years ago saw Nuwan's left-arm slinging missile angling into Rohit Sharma, inflicting pain, and forcing him to leave the net session.
Daya, who first caught the attention of Anil Kumble at Punjab Kings, also hurls at a fair clip and keeps it wicket to wicket. Even they can have sore shoulders, biceps or forearm injuries, and wrist niggles which need proper rehabilitation. But these are passionate people, and the Indian team members implicitly trust them to prepare for all games.
When a batter wants a short ball, the stick's length is shortened, while for faster and fuller deliveries, one tends to elongate the bar. "There are various lengths of the throwing stick, and ideally, the thrower should pick one which gives a realistic release point in terms of height," Sanjay Bangar, who used to give Kohli throwdowns tirelessly, shared his views.
So does a Kohli, a Rohit, or a Suryakumar Yadav ask them to bowl any specific delivery for which they want to practice a particular shot, or is it a random process? Sridhar said it depends. "Normally, the player would never say that bowl any specific delivery. But, yes, there are times they would demand a special delivery to be bowled as they want to check out a specific shot," the former Hyderabad left-arm spinner said.
However, Bangar said that it solely depends on the skills of a thrower as to whether he can hurl swinging deliveries, toe crushers (yorker) or bouncers. "The variety of balls depends on the skill of the thrower. A skilled coach can deliver all variations," Bangar said. Having spent considerable time in the Indian dressing room, Bangar and Sridhar provided some interesting insights into how a player's mind works while taking throwdowns.
"Suppose there is an out-of-form player [no names]. He tends to bat more than a player in form and faces more throwdowns. But on average, a top batsman faces at least 75 balls in one throwing session of 30 minutes," Bangar said. However, this is separate from some players' one-on-one sessions after finishing the customary nets.
"If a batsman wants to practice only one type of shot [suppose pull], then only one type of delivery [the short ball] can be bowled, but the consistency depends on the skill of the throwdown specialist," Bangar said. Sridhar, on his part, explained how the nature of training changes the moment the format changes.
"If you are playing a Test match, then specifics of throwdowns become different. Some might want to leave deliveries or tighten their defensive technique. When it is T20, one likes to continuously check his explosive strength and power. So, format-wise, the nature or throws change," reckoned Sridhar.
Can one produce inswingers or outswingers with the throwdown stick? "Of course, you can. In the device, there is an option to put the seam fitted in an upright position, and the wrist position is adjusted. You can even bowl off cutters, leg cutters, slower ones," said Sridhar.
On specific occasions during his playing days, Sachin Tendulkar would only prefer throwdowns without a device. "Sachin, at times, preferred normal throwdowns without using a device. The reason being a throwdown stick is different from the natural action of a bowler and his point of release," a former player who has seen the maestro's sessions recalled. It was Tendulkar who had first discovered Raghu's potential almost a decade back when he came to meet the master batter in Mumbai.
(With inputs from PTI)