‘Kohli looked at me in disappointment’: Ex-IND coach wanted to 'walk away, quit' | Crickit

'I froze for a second. When Kohli looked at me in disappointment…': Ex-India coach says he wanted to 'walk away, quit'

By, New Delhi
Feb 26, 2023 01:32 PM IST

Former Indian fielding coach R Sridhar revealed that he wanted to walk away from his job after Virat Kohli and Co. defeated South Africa in the 2015 Test match at Delhi.

Ajinkya Rahane's batting masterclass followed by Ravichandran Ashwin's bowling heroics sealed Team India's massive 337-run win over South Africa in the fourth and final Test of the bilateral series at Delhi back in 2015. Local hero Virat Kohli, who was at the helm, had described Team India's famous win as the most special of the bilateral series between the two nations.

Kohli had described Team India's famous win over South Africa as the most special of the bilateral series between the two nations in 2015(Getty Images)
Kohli had described Team India's famous win over South Africa as the most special of the bilateral series between the two nations in 2015(Getty Images)

Just like how India humbled Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2023, Kohli and Co. wrapped up the Test match against South Africa within three days at the time. In the thrilling contest at Arun Jaitely Stadium, Kohli's men had to grind hard for each wicket in the 2nd innings of the Test match. Batting icons AB de Villiers and Hasim Amla had epitomised South Africa's resistance at Delhi.

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For former Indian fielding coach R Sridhar, the Delhi Test match between India and South Africa served him with one of the toughest lessons of his coaching career. Taking a trip down memory lane in his recently-published book 'Coaching Beyond: My Days with the Indian Cricket Team', the former Indian fielding coach revealed that he wanted to walk away from his job after the 2015 Test match in Delhi.

“I learnt some harsh lessons reasonably early on in my stint with the Indian team. One of the most impactful ones came at the Kotla, in the final Test of the 2015 series against South Africa. We already enjoyed a winning 2-0 lead, and by tea on day five, it seemed as if South Africa might succeed in preventing us from scoring a third successive victory. With AB putting on a stonewalling act for the ages and receiving support from Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis on a dead track, South Africa were only five down at the final interval of the series. We were going to give it one final push on a gloomy December evening, but we were also reconciled to a stalemate, if it came to that,” Sridhar recalled.

“At tea time, we had a quick discussion on reverse swing. It was decided that Umesh Yadav would begin proceedings alongside Ashwin. We told Umesh to drop his bowling hand a little and deliver slightly away from his ear so that the change of angle of release, a more round-arm option, could help him find reverse. That's when I took my eye off the ball,” Sridhar added.

Former South Africa batter Amla had played a patient knock of 25 off 244 balls in the 4th Test match against India. Former Proteas skipper De Villiers was Amla's partner-in-crime at the time. The legendary South African batter had taken the onus to frustrate the Indian bowlers in the 2nd innings at Delhi. Known for his explosive batting style, De Villiers played a marathon knock of 43 in which he faced 297 deliveries.

“The team talk done with, I slipped into the common area between the teams and started chatting with Prasanna Agoram, the video analyst of the South African side and an old friend. I totally lost track of time. Normally, by the time the players get back on the field for the start of a session, I'd have set up a catching station; I'd be armed with a mitt in case somebody wanted to bowl a couple of warm-up deliveries. This evening, I forgot all that when suddenly I heard someone call out 'Sri bhai, Sri bhai' stridently,” the ex-Indian fielding coach continued.

A distraught Sridhar then saw Kohli, who was visibly not pleased with the then-Indian fielding coach. “I froze for a second when I heard the voice from the ground. I sneaked a peek at my watch and my heart sank. I sprinted down the copious steps to the ground, but by the time I was at ground level, the umpires had already walked in and the Indian team was following suit. Virat turned back and finally spotted me. His face was neutral, but he spread his arms wide and shrugged his shoulders. You didn't need to be an expert in body language to figure out what he was trying to convey,” he said.

Kohli's men turned things around for the hosts in Delhi by making sure the Proteas fold for 143 in 143.1 overs. Ravindra Jadeja cleaned up Amla while spin wizard Ashwin bagged the jackpot wicket of De Villiers. The veteran all-rounder bagged a five-wicket haul (5/61) as India thrashed South Africa by 337 runs to seal the series 3-0 at Delhi. However, a dejected Sridhar was in no mood to celebrate India's win over the Proteas. Sridhar even contemplated quitting his job after the lesser-known incident.

“The post-tea session was a brilliant passage of play. Umesh bowled superbly, Saha took a blinder leaping to his right, Ashwin got AB at backward short leg and the game just changed in a jiffy. But none of it registered. I was so dejected that I had failed in my duty. It was the last session of the series, and I had taken my eye off the ball. When the captain looked at me in disappointment, the first thought that occurred to me was that I must walk away from the Indian team, quit my job. I am glad to this very day as my I chose the more constructive option, of treating every day as my first day at the office, no matter what,” Sridhar added.

With the 3-0 win over the Proteas at home, India had become the No.2 Test side under Kohli's leadership in 2015. Spin wizard Ashiwn, who managed to break the Proteas blockathon, was also named the Player of the Series. Ashwin picked up 31 wickets in the four-match series. In his incredible journey with Kohli’s men, Sridhar served as the fielding coach of the men's team from 2014 to 2021.

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