Interview of Cricketers – TINU YOHANNAN – 1
J – Thank you for your participation in this interview, tell us your early memories of cricket.
I remember playing cricket with my brother in the backyard with either a tennis ball or rubber ball or any other object which was round in shape so that was my earliest memory.
J – Which cricketer did you admire growing up?
I loved watching Windies and their fast bowlers especially. Always used to admire their athletic ability as bowlers and their simplicity in their bowling and the rhythm that they carry so I always loved watching Windies bowl irrespective of any format. Courtney Walsh is a cricketer I loved watching back then.
J – What is the positive impact of this sport in your life?
The game has influenced me a lot in life. It has taught me the very basic foundations that you need in life. First thing is to stay grounded, obviously in cricket also your feet should be well-grounded otherwise one day you are on top and the other day you are not and it will be the worst day of your career so we can’t take this game for granted. Just as life, you always have to start afresh. It’s not the performance on the field that determines who you are. I always thought that what I performed on the field is what I could identify with. But later on, I understood that it’s not about performance but it’s really who I am within myself and how I take the wins and the losses and how I learn from each game. So all that in life is very important, it’s not how we fare in life or how good in situations we are, it’s how we take every day in the right spirit and learn from it every day and get better. So these are things I learnt from the game, it’s very basic and it has helped me in life. It’s not how much money we have made or the name/recognition, someday that will fade away in years to come. But what they recognise is the character. Maybe we won’t recognise Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli by next-generation, their kids may not remember them but if we have a good quality of character shown on the field, that will be definitely remembered.
J – You were the first cricketer from Kerela to make it into the national squad, made your test debut in 2001 against England and ODI debut in 2002 against Windies. How did it feel wearing the Indian jersey for the first time?
It is without a doubt a dream come true for me. Right from the day I took up the cricket ball and started bowling, it was a dream. And when I took cricket seriously, which is after my 12th standard, I knew that I could give a shot in cricket as a profession. Any cricketer’s dream is to represent India but my strong point was that I had seen my dad representing the country. Dad was an athlete, he was a long jumper. Because of that background, I always believed that I can also do that. I never thought about the circumstances in Kerala. Till then, nobody from Kerala represented the country. I just wanted to represent the country somehow. I pursued my dream, I got the opportunity to get into MRF pace foundation to learn the skill. For 5 years I was training there and then in 2001, I got the opportunity to play for India. And then sharing the dressing room with greats like Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Mohammad Kaif so it was a dream moment for me and that dream continued for two years.
J – Any memories you would like to share from your playing days?
I remember playing my first game against England in Mohali in 2001. Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar were standing at mid-on and mid-off with me and then they were encouraging me by telling me to relax and bowl at the best of your ability and this day is yours. When I got the wicket, I remember him patting my back and telling me that this is your day, make the most out of it. It’s still very fresh in my memory.
They also made me very comfortable in the dressing room and gave me a warm welcome. From outside, we think that these players are untouchables and we can’t go near them and all but when we know them in person, we know how humble, genuine and approachable they are. So that way it was an eye-opening for me, how they stay humble and stay focused on the game and how they stay in the present. It felt like home there.
J – How has the journey been as a coach of Kerala’s Ranji Trophy team?
After retiring from cricket in 2013, I was in Chennai playing a league there and after that, I came back to Kerala and then I decided to take coaching as a profession. Even in Chennai, I was coaching for two or three years with my club team. And then I got this opportunity to become the bowling coach of Kerala’s team in 2014. So from 2014 to 2018, I was the bowling coach of Kerela’s team. From 2018 to 2019, I took a break. I was given charge of the development of cricket in Kerala’s Cricket Association. So there I worked for two years and got a good idea of how the setup was like and how the development process in the state is and I had a good vision of how to go about this. So when Dav Whatmore resigned, Kerala opted to give me this job. I was happy to take it as it was a step forward. Because I knew all the players well. I also knew that I have stepped on the big shoes which are of Dav Whatmore and many others. Corona helped me a little because it gave me time to prepare mentally and then getting in touch with players and telling them what their roles are and asking them how to prepare. So up till now, it has been a good journey. Looking forward to making this Kerela team as a good unit and a good domestic side.
J – Who is the biggest match-winner from this team in your view?
Jalaj Saxena has been playing well for us for the last four years. He is almost a Kerala boy now and he has been delivering for us in all formats. Otherwise, Sanju Samson is one player who is a huge asset for us because of the experience that he carries in the team and the way he can change matches on his own, I think he is the biggest match-winner in this team so I would go with Sanju Samson.
J – Is there an influence of IPL on young Indian cricketers?
Without a doubt, IPL has been the biggest influence for cricket in the last 10-12 years or so. IPL is the biggest attraction for kids who want to get into this sport, and they have understood that this particular tournament can make their life and they can make a living out of it if they get into a franchise. So the thinking of youngsters has changed. It may be for good or maybe for bad but their main priority is getting an IPL contract than playing for the country. Any player who wants to fare in cricket, his priority is to play in IPL team which is fair enough because that’s an easier way to get into the Indian side than performing in domestic cricket day in and day out and then get a chance to represent the Indian side. So this is an easier door for them. But one thing we should understand is playing cricket for the country should be the top priority for the kids. That’s where real cricket is played. Competition has multiplied tremendously, it’s not easy to get an IPL contract today. Everyone has to improve their quality of playing cricket. That way Indian cricket has grown a lot because of IPL. But the mentality of players has to be to represent the country than an IPL contract, that’s why the domestic cricket has lost a bit of shine in India.
J – What change do you see in this sport during your playing days compared to today?
The mindset of the players is the biggest change I see. Positive is all the players are fearless now, they have no restrictions in their mind, they believe they can compete with anyone else and they are compelled to be like that because of the competition. That is why we see extravagant shots being played and extraordinary feats achieved in the cricket field especially in the domestic cricket today. And they have all become professional now. Now they know they are responsible for their game, taking care of themselves, their diet has changed, their fitness routine has changed, their daily practice routines have changed. So these are all the positives that have come into Indian cricket. But the biggest difference I see is that it has become a lot more commercial now. Everything with the boy’s matter is money, how much money can I get and which contract is better. So that way, they have to be educated from that side also and how to handle it correctly and also their priority which is to play cricket for the country.
J – Your thoughts on the current Indian fast bowling unit?
I think it’s amazing. Very encouraging to see these bowlers shine in foreign conditions. It’s brilliant to see and it speaks a lot about the setup and how we handle our bowlers. The big process has been happening behind the scenes. Bharat Arun as the lead along with others, they have been working and investing in the bowlers long time back. This is the result of that process. They have backed them well and taught them the right things. Take it from Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, Natarajan, Ishant Sharma who has improved so much, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav. So our cream bowlers are good but also our bench strength is equally good and they are performing for the team. So seeing them perform is very encouraging. Even the spinners Ashwin, who couldn’t play the last test but Washington grabbing the chance, so these are good signs for Indian cricket. Big applause to the whole cricketing system done by BCCI especially at the MCA level, how they manage players, the system that has been set up, everything is in order which is great to see, that is why we are ruling the world cricket right now.
J – Is this the best bowling unit in the world at the moment?
I can surely say we are one of the best bowling units in any given conditions. Take the spinners or fast bowlers, they standout every day. I would like to see a leg spinner coming at some point in time. Would love a quality attacking wrist spinner who plays test matches and gets wickets for the country especially in Indian conditions, that will be the best addition that Indian cricket can get right now.
J – What is your all-time Indian XI?
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