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India connect to Clarke's Sydney onslaught

The Australian skipper's brilliant unbeaten 251 - his first double century - left India in tatters on Day 2 of the second Test. And coach of Indian origin Neil D'Costa has played a big role in turning the "Pup" into the game's top dog. Dinesh Chopra reports. Sydney Test: Day 2

india Updated: Jan 05, 2012 02:10 IST
Dinesh Chopra

There is a strong India connect to the onslaught let loose by Michael Clarke in Sydney on Wednesday.

The Australian skipper has been mentored by Neil D’Costa, a coach of Indian origin.

His brilliant unbeaten 251 — his first double century —left India in tatters on Day 2 of the second Test. And D’Costa has played a big role in turning the “Pup” into the game's top dog.

“Michael is a sort of guy who never forgets his roots," says D'Costa, whose parents were born in Chennai. His father, Laurie D’Costa, was coached by former India captain, the late Lala Amarnath.

It was D’Costa who convinced Clarke's parents to let him quit school in Class XI to concentrate on cricket.

“I wasn’t convinced he should leave school. Being an Indian-Aussie, I know the importance of education,” says D'Costa. “But Michael struck a deal with me and his parents.” Clarke said he would play cricket and work so that he would have something to fall back on.

His refuge was Sydney’s Kingsgrove Store, which also had a cricket academy where he would train before starting work.

From 9 to 5, he knocked in bats, packed and dispatched them all around the world. He made $250 a week.

“By the end of the day, he'd smell of the oil that he used to put on the bats,” says D'Costa. “I would like to think that my Indian roots, where we know how to survive in all conditions, and Michael's determination pulled him along with this schedule for two years.”

(The writer works for ESPN’s Sportscenter)