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Moulding Vidarbha from cricket’s minnow to champion, Trevor Gonsalves’ way

Azhikkakath Joseph Antony

And, when you want something, all  the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it: Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist

‘Stay a step ahead always,’ may be Vidarbha’s mantra. When players elsewhere post lockdown videos of pets, the Nagpur-centred outfit rolled out an online off-season training programme, a first in the country, if not the only one.

From just a 10-district catchment area, it clinched the Ranji Trophy and Irani Trophy twice in 2017-18 & 2018-19 and the under 23 one day title in 2018-19, entirely on home-grown talent. The Col. C.K. Nayudu Trophy under 23 crown in March took its national title tally to nine since January 2017!

Often spin surrounds the terms ‘think-tank’ and ‘brains-trust.’  From these ‘oracles’ followers and media swallow hype hook, line and sinker.  At the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA), the leadership comprising President Anand Jaiswal, Vice President and former ODI all-rounder Prashant Vaidya, is low-profile.

But for the odd Umesh Yadav, not many of its players are known either. Least noticed are those who plot and plan the moves before and after each day’s play. Not surprisingly, the spotlight turned on the men behind the scenes only after that maiden Ranji triumph.

MUCH TO SMILE ABOUT:  Trevor Gonsalves (in panama hat, white sweater and behind trophy) after Vidarbha won the Col. C.K. Nayudu under 23 tournament in March. To his left is former international and VCA Vice President Prashant Vaidya and on his right Suhas Phadkar, former Vidarbha captain and Chairman, Selection Committee

Firmly rooted in the old school belief of ‘One deed speaks more than a thousand words,’ Trevor Aquino Gonsalves was heard perhaps for the first time. Over a decade of hard work had gone into fulfilling the dream of topping domestic cricket. The Rahul Dravid-led India under 19 team-member’s time/man-management ensures Vidarbha remains hungry and in the hunt for honours.

 “Trevor is a humble man. When I coached Vidarbha, he was very flexible and always accepted criticism positively. When I would flare up in the initial days of my Nagpur stint, his calmness would rub off on me,” recalled former Indian wicket-keeper Chandrakant Pandit. He was all praise for Gonsalves, who very effectively divided time between his job at Western Coalfields Limited and his passion– cricket.

Although they are as different as chalk and cheese in their coaching methods, Pandit and Trevor got along famously. Known for his short fuse and impatience for execution of his plans, Pandit could be harsh on the players. “Trevor was never aggressive, always caring for his boys, on and off the field,” said the mentor of many successful campaigns. So if egos were bruised by the coach, Trevor was quick to bandage them.

“Trevor would jot down points in a diary from inputs I gave players. He’d then spend hours with me afterwards to figure out the rationale behind my moves. He has the ability to get the best out of players and uses innovative methods to get the message across.

DO AND TEACH: Not one to teach his wards what he cannot do himself, Gonsalves demonstrates the grip and release for swing bowling during a training session

“For instance, if I wasn’t around or Prashant (Vaidya) was away, he’d call us to update us about developments. At a pre-arranged time, Trevor would call from a team meeting and put the phone on loud-speaker to make players hear instructions, right from the horse’s mouth, so-to-say,” Pandit recalled.

“Trevor’s biggest contribution has been in bolstering bench strength for the Ranji squad. Earlier, the under-23 team consisted of those who didn’t make the state senior side. Now so many from the younger crop are waiting in the wings to step up to the Ranji probables,” observed President Jaiswal.

“I happened to be in Indore a couple of days before Vidarbha’s under 23 triumph and went to watch the boys train. With Trevor holding court, there was total obedience from the young men, which can come only when they have complete confidence in their mentor,” Jaiswal added.

Trevor’s route to success may be through an open mind, which is ready to listen, learn and improve, noted Vaidya. “Both Pandit and Trevor have the uncanny knack to foresee which player would deliver on a given day. Pandit is 90 % right and Trevor is not too far behind.”

Against Delhi at Hyderabad, it was decided to bat first, should Vidarbha win the toss. “On an intuition, Trevor had a change of mind, saying Delhi were good chasers but not so good as target-setters. When invited to bat first, not surprisingly, it emerged that Delhi’s tally was reachable and Vidarbha successfully overhauled it,” recounted the former ODI all-rounder.

Former Andhra captain Vincent Vinay Kumar was head coach at a 2019-20 BCCI camp at Gwalior. “Behind those jovial and friendly fronts, Trevor can be very intense. Not only does he expect but wants the best from his boys,” he said, the two sharing not just a room but a common love of nature and wildlife.

“Trevor is just not polite, cooperative and helpful to the youngsters but can handle any situation that can arise anytime. That is because he’s always positive and very knowledgeable about the game,” said Suhas Phadkar, former Vidarbha captain and Chairman, Selection Committee.

                 ……Interview with Trevor Gonsalves follows

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