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The man behind the champions

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Lakshmi_Narayanan_CricketAfter finishing as runners up last year, Chepauk Super Gillies went a step ahead to clinch the title in the 2nd edition of the Tamil Nadu Premier League. This was the first championship for Chepauk Super Gillies. The team was elated and celebrating in the dressing room but there was one person who was quietly enjoying the celebration. Right from the auction in the inaugural edition of TNPL, he has always been integral part of Chepauk Super Gillies. He was none other than the renowned high performance analyst-Lakshmi Narayanan, fondly know as Lakky. 

This was a déjà vu moment for Lakky as he was part of the India Under-19 World Cup winning team in 2008, Chennai Super Kings for all 8 seasons and Gujarat Lions for the last 2 seasons of IPL. 

In an exclusive interview with HoldingWilley, Lakky talked about the role of a high performance analyst and his experience of IPL over last 10 years.

Q: Congratulations for winning Tamil Nadu Premier League. How was your experience this season?

A:  After finishing up as runners up last year, lifting title this year was a really wonderful experience. Every team played only one game in the league stage. Hence, it was essential for us to gain momentum right from the beginning. Apart from 2 matches against Tuti Patriots, our players performed really well throughout the competition. Credit also goes to R Satish who was our captain and Hemang Badani who was our head coach. We won the matches comprehensively and that was mainly because of proper analysis and planning. I would also like to thank Chepauk Super Gillies management for their continuous support.  

Q: What different things you did compared to last year?

A:  If you see, last season we ended up as table-toppers but fell short in final. This season our bowlers bowled really well. Our rookie bowler- Sai Kishore ended up as highest wicket taker with 17 wickets. Right from the beginning we did high performance analysis of other teams, venues and made customised strategy for each batsman and bowler. At Agaram Sports Technologies we have the video footage to come up with the game plan for every player. After the strategies are finalised it’s the players who accurately implement it on the field. 

Q: Unlike Chepauk Super Gillies, Gujarat Lions couldn’t continue their success from first season. What do you think were the reasons for that?

A:  Gujarat Lions had some of the best T20 players in the squad. The main reason why Gujarat Lions could not repeat their 1st IPL season’s success is the injury of our key players.  Injury to a player of the calibre of Dwayne Bravo at the start of the Indian Premier League season, and later to Brendon McCullum and Andrew Tye, disrupted the team’s plans and performance. Even Ravindra Jadeja missed first 2 matches. So this season we couldn’t really get going.  But definitely there were positives to look for. 2 of our young players, Ishan Kishan and Basil Thampi, displayed their skills with bat and ball respectively. Overall, it was fantastic to work with Gujarat Lions team over last 2 IPL seasons.

Q: How important is the support of players when it comes to performance analysis?

A: Different players have got different inclinations towards the use of technology. But more or less, all of them use data and videos to analyze their own game. This helps them to understand where they are lacking on field. For example, Sai Kishore has seen a good improvement in his bowling by using technical analysis. I was privileged to work with some reputed players like Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Hayden and Hussey. All of them were very much interested to use high performance analysis before match.

Q: You have been part of IPL for last 10 years. What changes you have seen over a successful decade of IPL?

A: I am honoured to say that I have been part of 9 out of 10 IPL play-offs. It has been a successful decade not only for cricket but high performance analysis as well. Earlier, in 2008 when it all started, performance analysis was still in its nascent stage. At that time we mainly used to show videos of players to the teams and then come up with the strategy.  The technology has evolved drastically over a decade. Now, along with videos, data plays a crucial role. At Agaram Sports Technologies, the technical support is not only restricted to on–field strategies but a lot work goes on in the backend too. In fact, we have different software for different occasions.  For example, the auction plays a big a role in IPL as it defines a basic structure of the team. As high performance analyst, my job is to make sure that the best possible combination of players is acquired in the auction. That gives good returns for the money spent in auction to franchisees. I have been involved in the auction process for Chennai Super Kings, Gujarat Lions and Chepauk Super Gillies. All 3 teams had very strong combination of playing XI as well as good back up options.   

Q: How has been your journey with Chennai Super Kings? Are you excited to be back in the dugout in next season?

A: I was associated with Chennai Super Kings as high performance analyst since 2008. All 8 seasons were unforgettable for me. In 2010 we won our maiden IPL title as well as Champions League title. Again in 2011 we repeated our success of 2010 and lifted IPL championship. In 2014 we won champions league for 2nd time. These are the moments that you live for. As I come from Chennai, I have got a strong bonding with CSK. I am very happy to know about CSK’s comeback next year. I am thankful to CSK's management and I have learnt many things during this 8 years stay. CSK is a family and I am really happy to continue with them.

Q: Finally, What advice you would like to give to youngsters who want to get into sports performance analysis?

A:  It’s a very niche field, but at the same time it is growing very fast. There are tremendous opportunities in this field. A high performance analyst mainly requires 2 skills- interest in Cricket and strong mathematics. As these days data analysis has become integral part in our field, a person must be able to extract meaningful information from the match data that we collect. In my case, I was a mathematics student and also played league cricket in Tamil Nadu.  BCCI also offers courses for video analyst. Most of the state Under-16, Under-19 teams now have a performance analyst in the support staff. As a high performance analyst, we get a chance to implement cricketing knowledge for benefit of franchises, teams and players.

 

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