When R Sridhar served as the team’s fielding coach, India was regarded as one of the top fielding sides in the entire globe. Before leaving alongside Ravi Shastri after the 2021 T20 World Cup, the former Hyderabad spinner served as India’s fielding coach under Duncan Fletcher, Anil Kumble, and the latter two.
While he had previously held positions as head coach of teams in domestic cricket as well as an assistant coach for the Indian U19 team and fielding coach for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League, making the switch to coaching an international powerhouse like India was not his cup of tea. The alterations Sridhar made to his tutoring strategies and the part senior spinner Ravichandran Ashwin played in bringing those changes.
“Being with Ashwin, I was struck by one of our early conversations in my first week with the national team,” says Sridhar in his autobiography ‘Coaching Beyond – My Days with the Indian Cricket Team’. “Non-confrontationally, he asked me, ‘If you don’t mind, Sridhar sir, why should I listen to you and follow the fielding drills you suggest? Why should I do what you are asking me to? From 2011 to 2014, we had Trevor Penney as the fielding coach. Now you have come in, you will be there for let’s say two to three years. You will say something; you will go away. Then a new fielding coach will come. If I am honest, in the next three years, I have a lot at stake. I should be convinced that what you are saying is going to work for me. It should help my game, otherwise, why should I listen to you?’”
Sridhar said that the conversation helped him realize that he needed to make changes to the way he has worked thus far when working with the Indian team. “We knew each other quite well by then, and I immediately got where he was coming from. His questions set me thinking: how much should I coach? What is coaching really?” he says.