PUNE: Sridharan Sriram was a stalwart of Tamil Nadu cricket, with over 9,000 first-class runs at an average of 52.99. He played eight ODIS from 2000-2004 without remarkable success with the bat, but proved handy with left-arm spin.
It’s the spinner in him whose knowledge of Indian conditions has attracted the Australians. Steve O’Keefe, their hero of the first Test, was open in his acknowledgement of the role played by ‘Sri’.
Ask him how his wisdom as a batsman helps him as Australia’s spin consultant and the 41-year-old wastes no time in reminding that his journey started as a spinner. He also mentions how the experience of handling failure stands him in good stead.
“I started as a left-arm spinner, played India U-19 as a left-arm spinner, and I know how it feels to fail as a spinner as well. That’s really more important than to know what you did to succeed. I’ve discussed spin with the biggest names in India, played against some of them. Coach or consultant, my job now is to share the knowledge,” said Sriram on Monday.
The Australians were having nets at MCA Stadium, on what would have been the fifth day of the first Test which got over in three. Sriram is accustomed to their work culture, having worked as consultant for their A team on its tour of India in 2015. He was hired again when Australia came to India for the T20 World Cup last year.
“I'd use the word adapt,” said Sriram on what the Australians spinners have done. “Because India is such a big country, you have to adapt on the go. You got to see what works for you on that day. That's where O'Keefe scored. He is prepared to experiment, which goes back to 2015 (A tour). He knew that he had to come with an open mind. What works on Day 1 may not work on Day 3. That's his biggest strength.”
Although Sriram is around primarily to help the spinners, his knowledge of conditions as batsman must also be beneficial for the rest of the Australian team. Having played on different varieties of pitches in a first-class career spanning 133 matches, he knows what it takes to score runs here.
“I have a chat with everyone. It’s not just the spinners. That’s the freedom I get from my head coach (Darren Lehmann) which is amazing. I can chat with anyone if I feel there’s something they should do. I go up to them and suggest and it’s up to them if they implement it. Some say ‘no’, some say ‘yes’. They have come to this level because they have done something right in their career. It's not about bombarding them with information. It’s about speaking at the right time, seeing what space they are in with their mental state.”
Having come to India prepared for the worst and got a pitch first up true to expectations, the Australian can afford to relax, thinking that it can’t get worse. Sriram shed light on the kind of preparations they had at the ICC academy in Dubai before coming to India.
“You prepare for the worst. Then if you get the best, you go for it. I think the preparation in Dubai was excellent. We prepared different tracks. We made a rough. We made rank turners. We made slow and low pitches. I think it was a great in terms of trying out different surfaces and being prepared for whatever you get. I’m happy for the spinners. They deserved it for the work they have put in.”