Aakrista Singh, 12, is an eighth grader studying in Paragon Public School in Kathmandu. A regular trainee at the Nepal Cricket School (NCS), Singh, is mentored by U-19 national team coach Binod Das and former fast bowler Kalam Ali. But for the last one week, Singh has seen a paradigm shift in his training under former South African cricketer turned coach Jonty Rhodes.
Rhodes and his compatriot Ryan Maron are currently in Nepal after NCS sought his services for a 10-day High Performance Camp at the Tribhuvan University Stadium. The two Proteas have already shared their expertise with Nepali coaches and are looking after multiple sessions with Nepali U-19 and U-16 cricketers.
The substandard facilities at the only international standard cricket stadium in Kirtipur and unavailability of grassroots cricket has no doubt taken Rhodes by surprise as it didn’t go in line with his expectations after having the impression that Nepal usually boasts a strong U-19 team. However, Rhodes has found the Camp exciting courtesy the enthusiasm and energy shown by the participants.
Singh is one of those close to 50 enthusiastic trainees at the TU Stadium trying to make the most out of a limited time he gets to spend with Rhodes. “He is different,” Singh said as he took lunch after a three-hour long session with the two South Africans. “We had few drills, batting sessions and fielding sessions with both Rhodes and Maron. Their style of training is completely different. Although we have learnt those things from our coaches, we got to learn a different style of training,” said Singh.
Singh’s cricket is in its infancy with the aspiration of going all the distance, which obviously starts from earning a place in the age-group national tournament. “I want to learn as much as I can and getting an opportunity to train under Jonty is a great learning curve for me,” added Singh who was not even born when Rhodes retired from his active international career. “I came to know about him from You Tube. He is very athletic and a hard worker. I want to emulate him.”
Pawan Sarraf, one of the emerging cricketers at the U-19 level, believed it was a great opportunity to train under Jonty. “I got to learn a lot. We got to learn almost the same thing that we do from the local coaches. What set Jonty’s training methods apart from the local coaches is the ‘approach’ to the game. As an U-19 cricketer, getting to participate in High Performance Camps like these is very useful,” Sarraf added. “Most of the coaches teach us about the basics of the game and stress on the importance of mental aspect. Jonty also did the same but his approach was different. I hope to internalise the learnings and take it forward,” he said.
Former national team cricketer turned coach Dipendra Chaudhary said the experience shared by Rhodes and Maron will be useful for Nepali cricket. “Firstly, it all depends on an individual how he internalises the knowledge gained from the Camp. They (Rhodes and Maron) have vast cricketing experience and its good to have their expertise,” said Chaudhary. “The energy the young cricketers have shown might benefit Nepali cricket in a long run provided we give continuity to it. Jonty and Ryan are very much involved with the trainees making the camp very special. Several local coaches have also learnt a lot from them and it will be beneficial for cricketers in the future as well,” Chaudhary added.