By Azhikkakath Joseph Antony
Among equals, if mentors make the difference, few can match Trevor Aquino Gonsalves when it comes to tweaking a bunch of chokers into a champion side. The Western Coalifields Limited employee, who juggled his job with cricket, his passion, managed to get the best of both worlds. Not just for himself, but also for his victorious wards from Vidarbha, who are now well-entrenched in the firm belief of ‘Yes, we can.’
Gonsalves took time out to share what makes Vidarbha tick with IAsiaNews.
Q: Can you trace your cricket journey.
A: From representing Vidarbha in under 17, 19, I played India under 19 against the visiting New Zealanders in 1992 and Ranji Trophy for six years more. Under Sir Dennis Lillee’s watchful eyes, I trained for three seasons at the MRF Pace Foundation. I also turned out for Emirates in the 1994 World Airlines championship at Christchurch, New Zealand.
Q: How did you branch out into coaching ?
A: I topped the National Cricket Academy’s (NCA) Level B coaches exam in 2007. I was appointed Vidarbha’s head coach for its under 17 and 19 teams from 2007 to 2011. In the 2011-12 season, I was given the same post for the under 19 Central Zone’s one-day squad and Asst. Coach of Vidarbha’s Ranji side.
My subsequent assignments were as Head Coach of the Central Zone Deodhar Trophy team that included Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar and Mohammed Kaif for 2012-2013, 2013-14 and in the same capacity and zone for the Duleep Trophy. In between, I worked with the India Under 16 side as an NCA intern.
Q: Don’t you need to upgrade or attend refresher courses to continue coaching ?
A: Yes after I completed three years as a faculty member of VCA’s Coaches Academy in March 2017, I successfully cleared the NCA’s Level B re-certification course at Bangalore in July. I was also certified to coach in Australia. During the BCCI’s specialised coaching camp for Vizzy Trophy boys at ITM University, Gwalior in 2018, I was the spin coach. Currently I am Head Coach of the Vidarbha under 23 team.
Q: How have the under 23 lads in your charge performed in the recent past ?
A: We were one day champions and reached the semis of the longer version– the Col. C.K. Nayudu inter state tournament– in the 2017-18 season. This year we clinched that title too by defeating Madhya Pradesh by eight wickets on their home turf at Indore. Interestingly, Col. Nayudu played for Holkar and lived in Indore but was born in Nagpur !
Q: What made the Indore triumph special ?
A: We lost seven of our finest players to the senior squad, which in itself a record of sorts. (Those who have played Ranji, Syed Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare One Day trophies cannot be fielded in under 23 competitions). Despite that we came up trumps !
Q: What innovations did you bring to training and coaching ?
A: With the supply line from under 23 to Ranji squads steady we decided to have them train together from June to September, the off-season, from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M.. We invited military personnel to give them motivational lectures. Although the coaches academy is based in Nagpur, it always reached out to the districts. We even had a 2 AM nets session at our indoor academy to build a constant state of readiness.
Q: Do you have a cricket or coaching philosophy ?
A: I was a total failure as a coach prior to (Jesus) Christ coming into my life. It is when He entered that I found Him in everything. His wisdom has shaped my philosophy.
Q: How would explain your success as a coach ?
A: Trust is the key. Rather than getting a player to do what he can, a coach must ensure he doesn’t ask him to do what he cannot. Falling down is not the problem, not getting up is. Never leave or forsake a player when he is falling. Know well that if he has tasted dust, the rise is certain if not near.
Q: How do you motivate your players ?
A: Motivation is not helping a successful player who knows what he is doing. It is building up confidence in one who has broken down, who has no one to help or support him. The real mettle of a player is seen when he is down and that’s where his story begins.
Q: But at the levels you coach, aren’t players more or less on an equal footing ?
A: Mental challenges matter more than technical pressures. I exhort them to do extraordinary things to separate themselves from the ordinary. You cannot expect to be an extraordinary player by doing ordinary things.
Q: Can you elaborate on the mental challenges or the efficacy of man management ?
A: Understanding the psyche of a player is the key. This is a tricky age and a player needs to be handled carefully. I meet each player one-to-one, get him to speak about himself and his goals. A coach has to listen to a player and be patient. I never force him to do what I want him to do. Rather I aim to empower each one to realise on his own what is best for him.
Q: What other practical steps did you adopt which worked for the team ?
A: With match and travel schedules tight, players need rest. They tend to lose sleep if they are on their mobile phones in the night. While we allow them access to their phones between 7 and 8 P.M. every evening, thereafter they have to surrender them to us. This ensured they rested enough and were ready for the next day’s play.