Sohail Khan’s celebrity cricket team, Mumbai Heroes, made its debut last year. But the team, which included big names like Salman Khan, Suniel Shetty, Ritesh Deshmukh and Aftab Shivdasani, finished last.
Sohail admits, “Back then, we went unprepared, thinking of it as a friendly match. But we realised soon enough that even the matches at the celebrity league are played with a high degree of competition. This time, we are better prepared and equipped.”
Sohail has hired former Indian Test cricketer Balvinder Singh Sandhu to train his team for the second season starting in January. They’ve now been doing net practice for over five weeks.
Balvinder says, “These celebrities are not regular cricketers, so we worked on the basics of the game. We first built their stamina, judgment of the ball, swing of the bat and bowling. The most important part is practicing match simulations.” The coach informs since all the team members can’t make it at the same time for practice, they are coached at different hours.
He adds, “We did a lot of practice sessions with tennis balls to match their eye co-ordination and judgment of the ball. It will prevent them from being injured unnecessarily. Later, we graduated to using a season ball, and gradually increased the distance they had to stand at to catch the ball. Salman Khan will play one of the matches and he knows the game well, so we haven’t practiced much together.”
Suniel Shetty, team captain, says, “We do a lot of stretching exercises to prevent any injuries. During batting, Balvinder encouraged us to play shots. At the same time the bowlers were trained to bowl at proper length. We don’t make too many technical adjustments, but focus on honing their talent as cricketers.”
Director Apoorva Lakhia, who is a member of the team, says having the 1983 World Cup-winning cricketer as a coach helped bring in a “professional attitude”.
He says, “His pointers to improve the game are helpful. He is very patient and answers our questions logically.”