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An Interview with Sachin Baby

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Sachin_Baby_India_CricketKerala created Ranji Trophy history in 2017/18 by reaching the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time. They lost the marquee clash to Vidarbha, but came back stronger this season, creating history once again by reaching the semi-final. As luck and history would have it, they face Vidarbha once again.

Kerala started this season with an innings lead in a draw against Hyderabad, defeated Andhra Pradesh and Bengal, lost to Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, won with a bonus point against Delhi, and lost to Punjab before winning against Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat to book a berth in the semi-final.

But the win against Bengal, according to Kerala captain Sachin Baby, was the most important one this season.

“Beating Bengal on their home ground was special and gave a huge boost to our confidence. That win set the foundation for winning the games that followed,” Sachin told Holdingwilley.com

Pace duo Sandeep Warrier and Basil Thampi, with 39 and 33 wickets respectively in the tournament so far, have been the trump cards for Kerala. “Both are game changers. One is my left hand and the other is the right one. They will be very crucial to our luck in the semi-final,” said the captain, a former Royal Challengers Bangalore player.

Coincidentally, Kerala will face Vidarbha in the semi-final, to whom they lost the quarter-final last year. Sachin believes that this time around, they will be better prepared to counter Vidarbha with the experience of losing last year.

“We played our first ever 5-day game last year in the quarter final against Vidarbha, so we were clueless about a few things. We were in a rush to beat the opponent; took too many chances while batting. This time around we know what mistakes to avoid and I think we can do really well in the game.”

The football-crazy state has historically not produced too many famed cricketers. Tinu Yohannan, S Sreesanth and KN Ananthapadmanabhan are among the few who reminded India about the scattered passion for cricket in Kerala. But Sachin is hopeful that Kerala cricket will make a mark in the domestic circuit soon.

“The semi-final berth means so much to us. We’ve waited for this moment for years. Until now, Kerala was recognised as a team that is capable of doing well only in the shorter formats but we have proved that we can excel with the red ball too. I hope this year we go on to lift the title and change the way a lot of people perceive Kerala cricket.”

Sachin acknowledged the development of cricketing infrastructure in Kerala and spoke about how two different monsoons in the state doesn’t affect their net sessions.

“Our association is one of the best in the country. We have many beautiful grounds coming up. Kerala receives rainfall for most parts of the year but the association makes sure we do not miss our practice sessions and matches by sending us to Chennai and Bangalore for the same.”

Last season, Sachin Baby and Dav Whatmore were made the captain and coach of Kerala respectively. Their game has scaled new heights since then. Whatmore’s international credentials include one World Cup and one Under-19 World Cup. The captain, on the other hand, is a young man with no international experience.

This could have led to ego problems between the two, but Sachin revealed that the duo is mostly always in sync.  

“Whatmore has always allowed me the power to go with my intuition on the field. Even if the intuition-driven decision backfires, I always have his back. Given that he is an international coach with lots of success under his belt, he could have been a little authoritative but he is a real gentleman.

“Of course we have differences in opinion sometimes. That’s [something that happens] with every captain and coach. But we go with what is best for the team.”

Sachin also revealed one of Whatmore’s coaching traits – giving inputs that are more tactical than technical:

“Whatmore doesn’t give too many technical inputs or makes too many changes. His inputs are more tactical, as in the game-plan and strategies. That augurs well for the team.”

In Sachin’s first season as the captain, Kerala made it to the quarter-finals. In his second season, they are now in the semi-finals. This is a personal achievement for the skipper, who is still one of the lesser-known names in the Indian cricket circuit.

“I am happy to have led Kerala to the knockouts stages but I believe this team has the capability to achieve much more. During my days at RCB and SRH, I observed and learnt from the captaincy of Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. While the former is very aggressive, the latter is calm. But I am like Virat. I am not lenient with anyone who isn’t giving his cent percent on the field,” Sachin said.

As a batsman too, Sachin’s batting average improved this year. So far, he has 479 runs from 9 games at an average of 34.21. He clocked extra hours at the gym and the nets to become a better performer this year.

“I always believe in hard work. Last year my batting average was mediocre but during the off season I worked hard on batting, fielding and fitness, and you can see the results now. I can play all the shots in the book,” he said.



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