Thursday, May 14, 2020

My Cricketing Insights - Parag Paigankar

Just the other day, I was inspired by an idea. I'd ask some of my cricketer to share their personal insights about the game. We all trained under different coaches and played in different cultures. We picked up techniques and concepts which we all understood in our own way. At times, we share these principles with our colleagues and teammates, and at times, they remain with us.
Parag Paigankar - 1988
But that apart, we also have our own set of insights about the game - our personal code of how to bat, bowl, field, lead, be part of the team etc. These insights would be interesting I thought. So I contacted my good friend Parag Paigankar from Mumbai to start the series.
Parag - 13 for 83 in the Vizzy Trophy semifinal in 1988
There's nothing better than a Bombay cricketer to share his cricketing insights. And Parag comes from the finest tradition that Bombay cricket has to offer. He played league cricket for Dadar Union, the club for which Sunil Gavaskar and Sanjay Manjrekar played for, played for Poddar College, which is Ravi Shastri's and Sanjay Manjrekar's alma mater, Bombay University and West Zone Universities in the Vizzy Trophy. In a stunning Vizzy Trophy semi-final performance, he captured 13 wickets against East Zone for a paltry 83 runs and ran through the side twice. I am surprised he didn't play first-class cricket for Bombay after that performance. As things stand, playing for Bombay University is as good as playing Ranji Trophy in more than half the states in India.
I met Parag when we were both working at the IDBI in Mumbai in 1994. We played the Times Shield together and he won the best batsman and best bowler award that year if I remember right. He would completely transform from his chilled out, modest, almost shy persona into a fierce competitor on the field. His focus would intensify as he bowled or batted and he'd almost go into a trance. As a batsman, he would cut out all risk, play long innings and make the bowlers earn his wicket - all the traits the Bombay batsmen were known for. As a bowler, he would never give the batsmen a free run and always attacked. It was clear he'd hate to lose. There would be no error from his side and he'd make sure of that. If there was, he would be very disappointed in himself. It was professionalism at the highest order. Suffice to say, Parag was always a great guy to have on your side, because you cannot expect less than 110% from him. He brought the same approach to work as well. (For Hyderabadis like me, who were flighty and chance takers, watching such professionalism was a huge lesson.)

Looking back after so many years, Parag shared some of his insights which might be useful to budding and young cricketers..

Parag's insights in his own words

Batting -
1.. Enter with a positive frame of mind - including believing in your footwork, technique, ability,  skills.

2. Judge the pace and bounce of the wicket to adjust your footwork and technique

3. Watch the ball in the bowler's hand (and not the bowler or his run-up...not to over-awed by name/class of the bowler..) and be decisive in footwork on the release of the ball to play as per line and length of the delivery...

4. Play square-on or side-on and play very close to your body.

5. Play one ball at a time to build long innings...

6. If you are quick and decisive in your footwork at the time of the release of the ball, then the batsman will not lose an opportunity to play strokes and score runs...batsman should be ready to seize the opportunity when the ball is not good and whenever there is a scoring opportunity

7. Build partnerships and rotate strike ...running between wickets..

8. Know your weakness and your well aware of weaknesses more so and work and practice to overcome it, as the opposition (if they know you) is going to target your weaknesses and give you less opportunities on your strengths...

9. Each inning is new and do not go by previous inning performance...mentally you need to be positive for the next game even if you failed in the previous one...because failure in one innings can quickly lead to failure in multiple innings because of negative mindset and tentativeness in footwork. (Similarly, if you got a hundred the previous game, be aware that you could get out first ball the next game.)

10. Build your stamina and powers of concentration to play and run for long heat and sweat...

11. Practice and match are a match, we have to build innings, concentrate for long hours, not take risks but also not lose an opportunity to aware that one ball can take you out by bowlers skill or by our own foolishness. In practice, we are slightly relaxed and we practice batting strokes in those  15- 20 minutes, see if your footwork is good and if you are judging the ball well..we can only take only 25-33% of that practice confidence into the match so that we are not overconfident during matches
Parag 1988

Bowling -
1. The primary mindset of a bowler should be to "take wickets" while giving minimum runs - this is also called attacking bowler

2. A bowler needs to play with the psyche of the batsman...constantly try to disturb batsman's rhythm and footwork, perturb him sometimes through sledging by wicketkeeper and close-in fielders, create doubts, try make him play 6 of 6 balls, not allowing rotating of strike frequently,  create pressure through slip and attacking field short, the bowler has to make batsman constantly feel that he is bowling to take him out...

3. The bowler needs to quickly assess the batsman's technique...his weaknesses and ways of getting him out

4. Learn and practice to bowlta ight line and length and then variations to deceive

5. The length will vary from batsman to batsman...some batsman will have a small reach and some have big reach...some will be very quick to latch on to back foot even to good length ball...or some will hop/step out of the crease to play the same ball...bowler has to constantly and quickly assess it and vary the lengths according to the batsman...many times frequently within one over...

6. Bowling is all about disguise and deceiving the batsman...
For e.g
- we have heard and seen many times, bowler sets a field in a way to make batsman feel he is bowling a bouncer but then he bowls a yorker or slower ones and deceives the batsman.
- bowler bowls 2 bouncers in an over but at different speeds or different angle so that batsman loses timing while playing hook shot and holes out to square leg or fine leg...
- off-spinner bowling straight ones, floaters,  and by using the same angle turn an odd one and the batsman plays for a floater or straighter and gives bat-pad catch to the short leg or gets bowled or drives uppishly
- leg spinner bowling leg spins, floaters, googles,
The bowler has to think of using all skills to outthink and fox the batsman by variations in length, thru tight line,  thru flight and turn,

7. The batsman should not be allowed time to go on to the front foot and then rock back to play pull or a cut shot. So nip off the wicket is very important

8. Since the bowler is the one who is the one to take batsman out, the bowler needs to inform captain what field he needs for particular batsman...during the over also, the bowler should ask for field change if he wants to based on his assessments of the  batsman and what ball he is going to bowl...bowler should be aware to even make slight adjustments in slip field position for e.g whether slip fielder should be slightly square or one step inside, whether he needs 2 slips for a particular batsman or 1 slip or 1 gully for another batsman or just 1 slip..whether forward short leg fielder should be on the line or slightly as silly Mid on or whether one cover or one cover and one short extra cover or two short midwicket or one at short midwicket and one at mid-wicket at boundary...all depends on batsman's technique and how bowler plans to take him out

9. There needs to be good communication n understanding between  bowler and captain..both should be receptive to each other's ideas...many times, the captain should allow the bowler to set his own field...and then captain can help bowler to improvise with tactical moves...both bowler n captain are assessing and strategizing  to get the batsman out, so both of them may come up with ideas...sometimes both may have same ideas...sometimes both may have different bowler needs to adapt himself and be flexible...he should have "Trier" attitude I.e trying any viable plan to get the batsman out

10. Bowling is all about Art as well as about bowlers are many times is also about attacking mindset, rhythm, guile, deception and off course technique...but the technique of the bowler should be kept Natural...for e.g one should not ask Bumrah to have bowling action like Lillee or Kapil or Hadlee...bowlers bowling technique and style should be allowed to be kept UNIQUE as bowling is also an Art and Art comes in different forms...and each Artist is different from other

That's a whole lot of wonderful insights Parag, and I know those are from the top of your mind. Next time we meet, we must chat longer on preparation and mindset. Thanks a bunch and I am sure this will help many young cricketers who are looking for some cricketing insights.

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