The man behind this mini-revival of Windies’ fortunes, particularly in their Test match batting, is Mumbai’s Monty Desai, who has been the Caribbean team’s batting coach since December last year. In his 12-year coaching career, Desai has been in a coaching role with Afghanistan, Nepal, UAE and Canada, IPL teams Rajasthan Royals and Gujarat Lions and Andhra.
In an interview with TOI, Desai shares his thoughts on West Indies’ much improved batting performances, and his role in them…
Former West Indies fast bowler-turned commentator Ian Bishop complimented you during the second Test for standing near the fence and watching your team’s batting all through without moving from there at all, during the pre-lunch session. Can you tell us about it?
It’s very kind of him to do that! I have a process of standing at a particular spot to watch the batters, where I observe their approach and their consistency with routines before the ball they face. This strategy began in the last innings of our batting in New Zealand during the second Test match, and I have personally stuck with it because it helps me to better analyze our Batting Unit’s performance.
Are you as dedicated to the #MenInMaroon as @montydesai?WI batting coach stays out there with WI batsmen! #WIvSL… https://t.co/Q9eU2evtrx
— Windies Cricket (@windiescricket) 1617121230000
There’s a picture you’d tweeted with Jason Holder, in which he’s holding a board on which is written: One-ball battles. Can you elaborate on that?
One-ball battles, as I often remind our team, reflect the understanding that every ball is a separate battle – it has its own story, and it is basically an event that unfolds between the batsmen and the bowler. My emphasis is that we need to have clarity in our approach and then respond appropriately to the next ball and any challenges that it may offer. We have tried to bring in longer periods of concentration for longer formats, but in general we are trying to reflect our skill execution in the best possible way in those one-ball battles.
How has your experience been coaching the West Indies side. unlike a franchise team, surely the West Indies board can’t pay you much..
At the end of the day, most of us are here for the love of the game. I have enjoyed the role and respect that I have been given here by the management that I report to, that is including our Head Coach Phil Simmons. I consider him a friend and a mentor. Thus, we shouldn’t compare franchise with Nation for a litany of reasons, but rather we should remember that the value of bringing progress and growth to any nation’s overall cricket presence is immeasurable and more than a worthy endeavor.
Years ago, when I moved back from America to take on my role with the Rajasthan Royals, it wasn’t about money even then. It was more about the scouting and development role that I was given. I was simultaneously working to improve the team while building my own strengths as a coach over the years.
Being a Mumbaikar, are you trying to imbibe the khadoos attitude in these young West Indian batsmen?
Being a Mumbaikar and being a learner throughout my life, I try to bring in a balanced approach to batting with a champion’s attitude. Rather than khadoos attitude, I would say the Mumbaiker tenacity is more of what I’d like my guys to embody in each of those ‘One-Ball Battles’…to work in way that is measured, consistent, and persistent to get the desired results for both individual success and team success.
You’ve never played club cricket, let alone first-class or international cricket. Still, you’re an in-demand, successful batting coach around the world. What’s the secret?
There is a bit of misinformation here, so I’ll set the record straight for the sake of accuracy. I am, in fact, the secretary of a C division club Yogi Cricket Club where I played and coached for much of my life in my younger days. In the past, I have represented clubs for brief periods like Jolly Cricketers, John Bright, CC Young National etc., and I have also represented Space Travels Company in Time Shield.
So, to answer your question, there is no secret. While I understand in some ways it’s not enough to be respected for merely playing achievements, coaching is an entirely different role. It’s teaching, giving direction, understanding your players’ challenges, and anticipating their needs to start. There is also planning and preparing the players to reach their pinnacle in different formats, and being a listener for them and not exclusively an instructor. It’s not just about batting but as a coach, one needs to facilitate players with a lot of passion and purpose and that’s what I try to do. Remember even our greats who have reached the highest level in our country have been coached by great personalities who may have never coached at the highest levels, but those early-career coaches did contribute to the success of these extraordinary players who went on to international notoriety.
In my case I am privileged to have worked with many different coaches in Mumbai and around the world, but one person who made a huge difference to me was late Shri Hanumant Singh who taught me to read the minds of the players and feel the game differently.
You’ve coached quite a few franchise teams in T20 leagues across the world. How different is coaching a franchise team from an international team?
Every role has its own challenges. In T20 cricket, a lot happens very quickly, and you need to be on your toes from a tactical stance to skill development and on-field role execution.
Overall it is a lot of mind & man management through training sessions, planning, and team meetings where you want them to be engaged! Internationally, the most difficult part, for me personally, is time away from family, but I do see the importance of what I am involved in, which is people, places, and passion with ‘purpose’.
There is a common misconception that the West Indian players are more into T20 cricket, and rarely value Test cricket. However, they seem to be doing well in Test cricket of late, having beaten Bangladesh 2-0.
The West Indians love Test cricket! Their people are so passionate about Test cricket success. I have witnessed it myself now in Antigua. With cricketers, it’s the same. Bonner waited so long to get a Test call, and you just had to see the joy around his maiden century that the entire nation felt, and it certainly added to the Happy Dressing Room culture. Joshua D Silva takes immense pride in representing the Test team as a youngster. Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel have both been long standing fast bowlers on the Test side. Holder and Brathwaite love talking about Test cricket all the time. The entire team representing the Test format loves it and of course individually they have the desire to be in all of the formats to do even better for themselves. Recently, John Campbell’s attitude in the net sessions, where he gets into fierce competition to value his wicket and not to get out is always a delight to watch. We just love Test cricket!
Has captaincy made a difference to Kraigg Brathwaite’s game? How well has Jason Holder taken to being removed from captaincy?
When you are given responsibility and if, as an individual, you love taking responsibility, it naturally shows in your performance. Kraigg is that kind of individual who prepares very hard and stays very focused on the job at hand. He walks into the batting role fully committed, and then on field takes on captaincy with passion. Jason Holder is a leader and still contributes to our Happy Dressing Room culture with a lot of love for the game and for West Indian people. He is helping a few youngsters mentoring them and in fact with the Sri Lanka series that just concluded, he has performed exceedingly well with bat and ball.
Guys like Rakeem Cornwall, Kyle Myers and Nkrumah Bonner seem to be like a breath of fresh air to West Indies cricket. Can you tell us about them, and what your advice has been to them?
They are definitely a breath of fresh air! Not to mention they ooze confidence, which they have brought into our ‘happy dressing room’ culture. They are all also unique personalities, who not only work towards their own game but have the freedom to speak up, and when they do, they typically offer valuable information to make our ‘happy Dressing room’ environment even better.
Our advice to them has been to always bring a better version of themselves by constantly striving for excellence and performing every time they walk out to the best of their abilities. We are empowering them to bring consistency in their thought processes. Speaking of fresh air, I also wish to highlight Joshua Da Silva. He has been amazing for the Test squad with both bat and gloves. He plays a vital role batting at number seven to contribute consistently. Despite being relatively new, in the last four to five Test matches, these cricketers have shown signs of longevity and are aligning their individual goals with team goals!
Can you take us through Mayers’ double hundred on his debut against Bangladesh and Bonner’s unbeaten 113, which helped West Indies draw the first Test against Sri Lanka recently?
Both players have developed a game plan that compliments their respective styles and have worked extremely hard on training for longer periods on their defensive skills and concentration skills. We were glad to see them take that into an actual game. We also feel both benefited from their experience in the One-day series in Bangladesh where we didn’t do well. However, often these failures heighten motivation and we were able to find methods and mindsets to compliment motive in that successful run chase!
Mayers double hundred was measured with defense and brilliant power hitting paired with his determination to chase the target and remain not out. When talking about Bonner’s unbeaten 113, it was a display of long periods of concentration through the pain, as he had recently sustained a back injury. He also adapted well to a change we recommended with his trigger moments at the crease while batting.
We saw the West Indies chase down 395 for victory in the second Test against Bangladesh earlier this year. Did India’s amazing chase at Brisbane against Australia in the fourth Test inspire them?
Definitely, India’s performance where young debutants made the difference inspired us as well. I will personally give a lot of credit to Braithwaite because in the very first innings in the first Test match he led the approach side of it for our batting unit with a clear mindset which really helped to set the tone throughout the series.
That picture of the players piling on Rakeem Cornwall after winning the second Test in Bangladesh said a lot, didn’t it?
It’s a picture of pure joy and unconditional love for the game – an image that defined individual and team character. Cornwall stayed so calm and present through the last catch in the first slip. When he took that catch the excitement and emotions were palpable. Absolutely splendid!
You and West Indies head coach Phil Simmons have worked together in the past, in the same roles for Afghanistan. Did that help when you joined the West Indies?
Absolutely! it did. There is a lot of respect for him in the dressing room for the way he operates. Let’s remember he has to manage not only players but his own staff and report to his higher management. He does very well to stay balanced in his behavioral approach which enhances the team’s progress overall. The entire management staff has been hand-picked by him and we have incredible respect for him. Also let me say this, Roddy Estwick is a senior coach who brings in so much valuable information and experience and Rawl Lewis, as team manager, does the same. Everyone is just keen to bring back glory to Caribbean Colors! #MeninMaroon.