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By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
USA head coach Thiru Kumaran is the latest guest on the US Cricket Podcast. Kumaran, 37, played eight ODIs for India in 1999 and 2000 before a back injury curtailed his career. After making a comeback in the Indian Cricket League in 2008, Kumaran moved with his wife to the USA where they now live in Dallas, Texas.
In this episode, Kumaran tells the story of how he became known as “Kenny”, his Indian domestic and international career including making his debut under Sachin Tendulkar’s captaincy as well as his short time in the ICL rebel Twenty20 competition. He then discusses his experiences in United States cricket and what obstacles face the team at 2013 ICC WCL Division Three in Bermuda, which begins on Sunday.
The full episode can be accessed by clicking here and can also be downloaded for free on iTunes. The following are a few selected quotes from the interview.
Peter Della Penna: One of the big news items that came out of the squad selection was that two senior members of the team, Aditya Thyagarajan and Usman Shuja, were left out of this squad and they have a tremendous amount of experience that they’ve built up over the last several years for the US national team. In their place are a couple of younger players. Do you feel it was a big risk to leave them out and miss out on that experience in place of having some younger players in the team?
Thiru Kumaran: The thing is we are heading in a certain direction, US Cricket. I am talking about the whole cricket getting more professional and we are setting some standards. So if a few standards are not met then we need to take a decision. Hopefully the players understand that and then they just get their standards to the level that has been expected. That’s as simple as that. So going forward if you set the policy and you go ahead with it, it doesn’t matter whoever it is. We have to take a decision, you have to take a decision as simple as that.
PDP: What standards would you say certain players are falling short in?
TK: A few things I am allowed to talk, a few things I cannot talk. This is what it is. You set a standard. We are trying to be more professional, we trying to be a more fitter team, we are setting ourselves a few standards which have been given to us. So once those things are not happening, then we need to take a decision and go ahead with people who are willing to do it.
PDP: What is your outlook in terms of the opponents you are going to face? As far as I can tell, the schedule that USA has in front of them, it’s almost the worst possible scenario in terms of basically the two toughest matches are going to be the first two matches that the team plays. Instead of being able to ease into the tournament against some easier opponents, you have Nepal and Italy back to back on the first two days of the tournament.
TK: I think it’s a blessing that we are playing Nepal first because we will be really fresh and we know from our experience the last time we know what we need to work on. We have definitely worked on those things and we have asked the players to work on whatever they have to work on. Nepal is one side we feel is a strong side. So playing them first, I don’t believe in easing into the tournament. I believe we are playing the strongest side first. We’ll be well prepared and we’ll be fresh, one main thing. So if we win this first game, it’s gonna set us up for the whole tournament. That’s how the whole team is looking at the fixture. So I feel definitely it’s a blessing that we are playing Nepal first.
PDP: You said if you win this game it’ll help set you up for the rest of the tournament, but if you lose the game do you feel it’ll be too difficult to overcome? Basically you’ll need to win four straight games to finish in the top two.
TK: It’s not about losing…. It’s a plus. When you win against a strong side, you are very confident. When you lose against a strong side, you lose to a strong side so you carry on with the game. So it’s definitely a plus, not a minus.
PDP: You lost twice to Nepal in Malaysia. What needs to change in order to get that result in the opposite direction for the USA?
TK: The first game, I know you were there, but we dropped some catches.
PDP: You dropped a lot of catches.
TK: Yeah, so we dropped a few catches which made them put up a strong total. Even though we were on line chasing it, we struggled in the last 10 overs. So we definitely have worked on those issues which was hindering us. Mainly they attack with spin so we asked the players to play a lot of spin. From Bermuda we have practiced until now so we asked them to play a lot of spin, get used to it. So there are a lot of things and we did a lot of fielding practice and we asked them to take a lot of catches every day. So these are the things we are trying to, whatever is our weakness we are trying to fill it up. So I think we are definitely better prepared this time.