Wednesday, June 3, 2020

My Cricketing Insights - Mony NS

Mony and I met in August 1994 in Bombay as young development bankers in post-liberalisation India which was looking for fast track loans from the big daddy of industrial financing then, the IDBI. Mony is a Chartered Accountant, a rank holder, and knew his finance better than the rest of us in the department who would struggle with the numbers - more so, me.

Four of us from our department, the grim sounding Business Development Division, gravitated towards one another - Parag Paigankar, Mahender Kumar Ralhan, NS Mony and me. We would lunch together, go for walks together, and generally hung out together.
Mony on the cricket field!
Now, Parag was a Vizzy Trophy player with superb credentials from Bombay cricket, coming from Dadar Union, Gavaskar's cricket club. I had played Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad back in the mid-80s and Mony had represented Trivandrum in the Under 19, 22 and 25 categories in the 80s as a fast bowling allrounder during his young days. Mony played for the Chasers Cricket Club in Trivandrum to which he is still affiliated. (Mahender hated all forms of games and sports.) So the three of us went to play for IDBI in the Times Shield and did fairly well too that year, making the finals.

We split up in 1998 but remained in touch. Mony has moved since, just as all of us did, and he is now Head, Global Financial Institutions, Bank of Muscat, based in Muscat. When I asked Mony,  to share his cricketing insights, he promptly shared some lovely insights.

Here they are, in his own words.

Mony's Insights

Some tips for cricketers which might help them on the field. They might hopefully help navigate the inner demons when you get on to the cricket field.

Swimming with the Stars
Have you ever found yourself in a team of star-studded players? Looked around you in the team bench, and wondered what the heck are you doing in this team? Whether you can meaningfully contribute to the team more than the stars? Sweat not, this is a perfectly natural feeling. And trust yourself, this is not going to go away, soon. Typically, if you allow this feeling to linger long, your fears will conquer you, and then, pretty soon, you will live up to your fears. How then to break out of the chain?

First and foremost, there is some value in you (there, I am offering you a flicker of hope!). You need to build on them.  As they say, a chain is as strong as the weakest link. You may not be the best player in the team, but you better ensure that you are not the weakest. Remember the African jungle saying - “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle— when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” It doesn’t matter whether you are a star or not, you better go out and perform. Think of yourself as the lion and what it should do. You should perform better than the worst guy in the team. Period. Over time, you will perform far better than you thought and you will be among the stars yourself!

If you want role models for such situations, think of Roger Binny, Madan Lal and Syed Kirmani in 1983. It were these highly underrated guys, who hung around long enough to help Kapil Dev smash that memorable 175 against Zimbabwe and lift India from 17 for 5 to 266 and pave the way for that historic World Cup win by India. The world of cricket was changed forever! If you cannot relate to those golden oldies, think of present-day cricketers, say, Jack Leach of England. He walked in at No. 11 in an Ashes Test against Australia, with 73 to win and Ben Stokes at the other end. In the unbeaten partnership of 76, Leach scored 1. Unlikely heroes, but heroes nonetheless.

Pressure Situation- Batsman
Have you ever walked in to bat when wickets have fallen suddenly? And you found yourself in the middle, way before you were mentally prepared.? Most batsmen get overawed in such a situation, even very accomplished ones. Which is natural. And then when you play and miss those first few balls, your stomach churn, which was 1000 rpm to start with, goes up by a factor of 100. The opposition is charged up, you sense those vultures hovering around swooping in for the kill. You are in vulnerable territory – that sinking feeling of all things lost, nothing more to do etc. Even ordinary balls look menacing. You are playing the situation, not the ball. No amount of net practice prepares you for this. Practice matches can, to an extent, but still cannot replicate a real match situation.

I have to narrate you a short story to explain how I handled such situations. Once, in a coaching camp, I was facing a demon of a fast bowler who was pounding in and unleashing pretty fearsome short-pitched stuff. Maybe I had the technique to handle those, but the fear factor inside paralysed me. I was moving back and outside the leg stump, to somehow save myself from being hit. The more I did that, the more kick it was for the bowler. After I did this move for the 3rd or 4th time, the coach called me out. Though I expected a verbal bashing, I was relieved that he saved me from that demon. Well, it was not to be. He asked me “What’s your favourite song?” I was completely baffled. If not the reprimand, he could have shown me some technique to handle the short-pitched stuff. In those days, I was getting more and more addicted to the great Kishore Kumar. So I mumbled “Mere Sapnonki Rani”. He asked me to sing the first two lines. Gosh! To the full amusement of the other guys, I sang the first two lines. “You sing terrible, but it will do. Now go back, keep singing this song when you are batting. Get back, Go” I was left deeply unimpressed with this coaching tip. He was throwing me back to the wolves. Hanging my head after having to suffer this humiliation and pretending to ignore guffaws all around, that was a very heavy walk. Took fresh guard and looked up. The devil was now joined by another equally mean-looking giant. Whatever. I started humming the song in my mind. What an irony. I was singing about the girl of my dreams, while preparing to face two horrible guys.

What transpired in the next 15 minutes completely baffled me. Without me knowing, I started playing the balls on their merits, and was able to judge and tackle the short ones far better than previously. Singing that song diverted the subconscious mind away from the fear. Once the stomach churn settled, my innate batting instincts were let to play out. After the session, it finally dawned on me. The coach had wanted me to blow away my inner demons, and not focus on those outer demons who were running up to bowl. That important tip has stayed with me throughout. I have practiced this and found this quite useful. So the next time, when you go out to bat, hum your favourite song of the day in your mind.

Pressure Situation - Bowler

Have you been hit for two consecutive boundaries? Or been lobbed the ball to bowl in PowerPlay ? Or the last over in a T20 match with well-set batsmen at the crease? I shall share a few tips.

First “Scenario Planning” – this is corporate jargon for simply visualizing in advance. This is not day dreaming. When you visualize, you take into account the opponent, and yourself on a “as is” basis. Meaning, you know your limitations and strengths. Play to your strengths and try and build resilience around your shortcomings. For example, if you have a tendency to overpitch, protect your boundaries well with good safe fielders. Similarly, if you are aware of a particular batsman’s penchant for some shots, visualize how you can limit those opportunities and then what would he do if he becomes frustrated not being able to play his favourite shot.

Second, be aware. On match day, all good plans can go awry. Have a Plan B, and importantly be aware when to switch that on.

Third, if you are being hit, remember the turtle. Go back to your shell. Take a deep breath. Recognise that the opponent batsman is now getting into overconfident territory. That is a window which you should try and exploit. Have a stock ball – one which, in your mind, has the least probability of being hit for a boundary. Of course, it goes without saying, practice this ball very very well in the nets. This is not a wicket-taking ball, this is just to restore pride. And some respect. If it ends up earning you a wicket, that will be a bonus.

Closing tip
Of course, all this will work once you have your basic cricketing techniques right. For that, practice, practice, practice. This can never be over-emphasized. One thing I never did on the field was to try out a new thing. Anything new, first test it out at the nets.


Thanks a ton Mony. Those were wonderful insights and I wish you had shared them with me when we were in Mumbai. I'd have scored more runs and then more wickets.


Unknown said...

Spot on, Mony! Just went back in time to relate to some of the things you mentioned. The way you described the situation of a batsman while facing good fast bowlers actually made me rub my knuckles and left thigh!

Unknown said...

Hi Eashwar,
Yes, with those sub standard thigh pads which we could get in those days, it was quite a task to face the real quick bowlers, especially in the nets with no help from the open air!

Unknown said...

lovely insights Mony
Cricket is a great game which teaches you many life lessons and vice versa

many life lessons can be applied to cricket !!

aadil chagla Former Chassers Club cricket - current Veterans India team Player