Saurashtra Lions & Gujarat Lions -Sitanshu Kotak
With good experience, exposure and memories of my 22 years long Cricketing year where I played under different coaches like Mahendra Rajdev, Ashok Mankad. But starting my career as coach was totally a different ball game. I have played different formats of first class cricket, in India as well as abroad. Team of Saurashtra has been my karmabhoomi, as player and as Coach as well.
After my retirement in 2013 as player, I have started my seconding inning in the World of Cricket; as Coach. My core experience as Cricketer helped me to start my career as Head Coach of Saurashtra’s Ranji Trophy team. First year as Head Coach for the same team I played with was little difficult mentally. However, I must acknowledge and appreciate support of the team and players with whom I played for good years. In that season, in spite of playing some good cricket, our team did not finish well and came down from Elite Group to Plate Group. Next season, i.e. 2015-16, we started with more determination, more commitment and more focus. And just in this second season of Ranji Trophy of me being Head Coach, we finished as Runners up!! I give all credits to players as their commitments made all the wonders. Wish we had won the final to create history. And we are committed and determined to do so in coming future.
As a Coach, usually it takes at least 2 to 3 years to build up a team and start getting good results. However, for me the result came much quicker that is mainly because of I have played with most of the players, knowing their strength and weakness, knowing team’s strength and areas of improvement. And that helped me a lot to get good results. And most importantly, I have a team which strongly believe in teamwork, which strongly believe in commitment and which is strong in individual talents.
In this same year, i.e. 2016, I got great opportunity to work as Assistant Coach of Gujarat Lions, new IPL team in IPL 9. I must admit, though different, but it was a wonderful experience.
Working with Saurashtra Ranji Team as Head Coach, where I know all the players personally helps tremendously as all these players also know my expectations from them. But working as Assistant Coach of the team where players come from different teams, different states, different countries, national and international players have been totally a different challenge. Many of them, I was meeting personally for the first time. In a way, in very short period, I ought to know their acceptance, their strength and weakness, their mind-set, their level of skill. But most importantly to make them trust me as an Assistant Coach as well as a person. And thankfully I could do it.
I believe many would agree that IPL is one of the best organised sport tournaments in the World and all credits go to administration of IPL/BCCI. IPL is serious competitive Cricket. Some people may comment that IPL is all entertainment, but it is not so. T20 is the most popular format of Cricket these days and IPL is great platform of T20 matches. But it is all about great cricketing talents and performances. The mega success of this tournament is mainly because it is very well administered and organised. This was for the first time I got closely associated with IPL and indeed it was a great experience.
Here, I share my experience of working with Gujarat Lions, its captain, its owner, its Head Coach, its players, its administrative team and its home ground.
As Saurashtrian, as Rajkotian and as Gujaratian, it was immense proud moment for me when Intex chose Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium as home ground and thus Rajkot, for the first time got its IPL team. In fact, it was for the first time a city of Gujarat got its IPL team. We all were overjoyed and elated when it was announced. And when I was selected as Assistant Coach for this team, my joy multiplied. How thankful I am to the owner, its selection team as well as the host association.
Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium. As player, coach and also spectator, I can vouch that this is one of the best Cricket Stadium in the world. This stadium has remarkable facilities for players as well as spectators. It has excellent pitches and great outdoor and indoor practice facilities. And every spectator of each stand would have great experience of the match. This being Gujarat Lion’s home ground had increased my confidence as Assistant Coach mainly because I was very confident that each player would get good practice and playing conditions. And I was right. Each player, support staff and admin staff of Gujarat Lions had great time and experience in Rajkot and at the stadium.
Each and every person associated with IPL matches played in Rajkot have had one very common appreciation and experience. The spectators. They have been very sporting and enthusiastic. They enjoyed each moment of these matches and responded well.
When I think about the players of Gujarat Lions, first and foremost I wish to talk about Captain Suresh Raina. He has great character indeed. The way he handles the team is simply amazing. Not only he is very skilful player, but also a great match winner. He is cool, but determined. He is focused and committed. In my humble view, he falls in India’s top three batsman in T20 and ODI. It was not easy to captain a very new team. Raina did it so very well.
Ravindra Jadeja. I am lucky that I have played with him as well as being coach of teams in different formats. He is naturally very fit and gives 110% on field. He is probably the quickest fielder I have seen in IPL. In good game or bad, he tries his best to give his best. In this season of Ranji Trophy too, he performed exceptionally and remarkably well.
When I talk about International players, it was great working closely with some of superbly talented individuals like Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dale Steyn, Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner, Dwaye Smith. It was indeed most memorable and great experience working with them.
Something any cricketer can learn from is an attitude from Dale Steyn. Though Dale played only one match in this IPL, but for a player who got 400+ test wickets, his positive and friendly attitude is something to experience and learn about. He is one of the best example of a great team man. He is indeed a great inspiration.
It was great to work with Coach Brad Hodge, who has been one of the best T20 player till IPL8. He is great thinker of the game and hence build up good strategy for the team and individual players. He encourages team players well and in all positive manner, would point out and rectify weakness of the player. He has good experience of IPL as player and that has been good platform for him to function as Head Coach. I learnt many good things from him.
Heath Streak, Bowling Coach of the team is very humble and friendly person. His knowledge of Cricket is vast. Great working closely with him.
All support staff were hardworking and committed towards the team.
The owner of the team, Mr. Keshav Bansal was more like friend than the boss. That is the utmost quality of true leader.
CEO of the team Col. Arvinder Singh, another remarkable man to work with. He too has vast experience of IPL and functions as great and effective captain of the ship. His positive and commanding attitude in all smooth and rough, ups and downs were great support to the team.
Not winning IPL after being No. 1 in league matches. The phase was not going to be easy for the team, support staff, CEO of the team as well the owner. But all of us know and had satisfaction of working hard with dedication and commitment and gave our best. Though it is very hard to digest finishing 3rd in IPL 9, the whole unit took it so sportingly. And that makes the team more determined and strong to come back stronger next year. As statistics shows we may not be champion of IPL 9, but we were the most followed and supported team by the spectators around the world. And I think the credit goes to hard work of team “Gujarat Lions”.