kiran more

Kiran More rekindles memories of some immaculate wicket-keeping during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The plucky wicketkeeper and a right-handed batsman, who had an uncanny knack of blossoming under pressure, did a laudable job in 49 Tests and it will not be wrong to say that he was the best wicket-keeper India have ever produced. From the infamous drop of Graham Gooch on 33 at Lord’s to Javed Miandad doing wicked jumping jack replication, More has been at the centre of attraction on numerous occasions throughout his career.

As the biopic on India’s 2011 World Cup winning skipper MS Dhoni is all set to hit the theatres, the enthusiasm has scaled newer heights. The lead role has been played by Sushant Singh Rajput, and the 30-year-old has done a commendable job in the filling in the big shoes of Dhoni. One would certainly be mystified by seeing Sushant bat or keep in the nets, as he gives an impression of Dhoni. The reason behind such successful imitation of Dhoni has been More, as he worked very hard with the actor to train him and  transform him into a cricketer. More has earned accolades for his determination and masterpiece from many cricketing greats in the country, including Dhoni as well as Sachin Tendulkar.

Be it batting, running between the wickets, stance or wicketkeeping, More has covered each and every aspect of Dhoni and successfully instilled in Sushant. During an interview with CricketCountry, More opened up on how he trained Sushant, and spoke about many more lesser-known facts.

CricketCountry(CC): What similarities did you find between MS Dhoni and Sushant Singh Rajput?

Kiran More (KM): The way he bats, the way he walks, the way he runs and the way he plays the helicopter shot, and his looks. It is unbelievable what Sushant has done, I think I would give a lot of credit to him. Of course, we worked as a team but at the end of the day, Sushant has to put in lot of hard work and we worked very hard so we got a result.  Even Dhoni was also shocked to see what he saw in Sushant, when we completed our training program.

CC: What challenges you had to overcome in coaching an actor and not a cricketer?

KM: We started with the basics; I had to see him initially, what he can play? How he can stand? How he can face the ball? How he can catch the ball? Because Sushant has never worn wicketkeeping gloves. So to keep wickets is always difficult It was the same thing for Sushant and he played with tennis ball cricket and not with season ball so I had to see what he is doing, what is his stance, his grip, his body language, his head position, his balance. So we made him play normal cricket initially and so I would see what he can do. Then we started working on his batting, his bat lift, trends we started working on. How Mahi holds the bat, how the bat comes, how his shots gets finished, the bat position. We started playing all shots, and he played nearly 300-400 balls a day. After mastering all the shots, the helicopter shot came into play. Once everything was finished, we worked on the helicopter shot. If we do not get the basics right, you cannot get the other difficult shots. Any bowler who bowled in that particular are, Sushant used to play the helicopter shot. And he used to play similarly like how Dhoni did over the point, mid-off or mid-on. Once you get the basics right, it became easy. We never used tennis ball and I give a lot of marks to Sushant for his guts and daring. He suffered a lot of bruises and also got hit many a times on the helmet but luckily there was no injury.

C: How difficult was it for Sushant to imitate Dhoni’s body language, stance, and his batting style?

KM: Stance was very important, we worked on that and it took some time, once that came we started with the flow of the ball. Hitting the ball through covers, running between the wickets, body language. We saw a lot of videos and Sushant used to go back home and did a lot of home work. I also shoot with my camera and see him every day and what we can improve tomorrow and that is what we worked as a team. I give a lot of credit to Sushant; he is an actor and did a good job. He had to do a big task and he got almost 100 per cent correct, which shows the class of an actor. He measured it well and came to that level.

CC: A helicopter shot as narrated by Dhoni is a difficult one to execute, but Sushant did a magnificent job in mastering it. How did you help him work on it?

KM:  We worked on the basics, we started with the cover drive, the straight drive, the flicks, and then we worked on his helicopter shot on the bowling machine. We kept trying and one day he got it. I told him he has to get his balance right, you head should not fall and one day he got it. And then he realised this is it and since then he never stopped. Every day he wanted to hit the helicopter shot and any cricketer of the country or top cricketer of the world will not be possible to copy this shot but Sushant has done that. Credits to him and as a team we worked on, it has come out really well. Today, I challenge anyone to come in the nets and play shots like Dhoni, which will not be possible.

CC: I once saw a video, where Sushant was keeping wickets in the nets, initially I thought it was Dhoni but it wasn’t to be. How difficult was it for an actor to pick up such skills quickly, how did you help him do this?

KM: The most difficult phase of our nine months journey has been wicketkeeping because I had to get him into cricket first. So what we did was a lot of batting practice initially and he got into the mould of cricket cricket cricket…. Then we started throwing balls at him and let him catch it first. As it was a transition from tennis ball to season ball and I was a bit worried about him getting injured. Slowly, we worked on it and after some time when I saw enough confidence of him catching the ball then we started working on the style. Once he was confident, we could experiment, which we did. Diving, keeping wickets to fast bowlers, spinners as they are the most difficult to keep wickets to and in order to get the correct styles going that we hard to work hard. And one day, Sushant came to me and said he was not comfortable keeping but I said we have to work hard. He enjoyed batting, he used to avoid keeping but we had to push him because this is very important part in the movie. If we get wicketkeeping correct it would crucial for us. We gelled really well as a team. I used to shout at him and also punished him for being late. Sometimes, he came five to ten minutes late, timing was perfect but his commitment was superb. He must have come late because of his late night shootings as it went to early morning but I used to make him to do a lot of extra hard work, which he did not realise was a kind of punishment.

CC: Once, while practicing in Mumbai, Sachin Tendulkar walked in and asked you who is that cricketer batting in the nets? Can you elaborate this instance?

KM: Sachin came to see his son practicing; Arjun was bowling to Sushant and wanted to bowl bouncers to him. Sachin came to me and asked, “Who is this cricketer?” I said he is Sushant Singh Rajput. Sachin’s reaction was surprising. That was the message I got when Sachin and many other cricketers like Chandrakant Pandit, Pravin Amre, Subroto Banerjee asked the same question about Sushant that he looks like a cricketer and not an actor. Once, doctors came from Lilavati for practice and did not realise it was Sushant and asked me, who is this cricketer? (Smiles)

CC: Did Sushant suffer any major injury during the training?

KM: He had bruises, got hit on the chest and many a times on the helmet but luckily he did not suffer any major injury.

CC: Sushant started training under you as an actor; did he finish as a cricketer?

KM: Absolutely, I told him to play some league cricket also (laughs). But I feel he is a brilliant actor and he is going to go a long way in the film industry.

CC: If there were a biopic to be made on your life, who would you prefer to play the lead role?

KM: Sushant….. (With a lot of laugh)

CC: But you will not be there to train him?

KM:  I’ll get a ready material (again some laugh).

CC: How satisfied are you with your work in training Sushant to be like Dhoni? Could you have done a better job or the outcome is as expected and perfect?

KM:: This is the perfect outcome that’s why I said I had a fantastic student with me. Sushant was superb; commitment was excellent, hard work, rough conditions to work in, he was a special student. And to be a non-cricketer and play like a cricketer is super-duper and it’s not easy.  If I say I want to become a badminton player, it’s difficult.

CC: Who is the best Indian wicketkeeper in contemporary cricket?

KM:: Wriddhiman Saha

CC: Anyone apart from Wriddhiman Saha who could do a good job for India and deserves a place in the national side?

KM: Yes of course, I think there is Naman Ojha, Parthiv Patel, and then Dinesh Karthik is there. There are young cricketers like Aditya Tare, who did well last season. And there are lot of people waiting like Sanju Samson and if given them an opportunity they all fit.

CC: Graham Gooch was dropped by you on 36, after which he went on to score a record 333. If you had an opportunity to go back and change the past, is this what you would have loved to change?

KM: That’s part of life, part of the game. I dropped the catch but none knew he would go on to score 333. Of course, we do not get proper sleep for many nights; it plays on your mind. If you drop anyone at slips and he went on to score a ton, or you get out for a duck or getting drop from the side, it affects you. But when you lose a match, it affects you more. It’s a part of the game, I hard to come very strongly and work very hard on my mental strength, which helped in the future as well.

CC: How do subcontinent wicketkeepers adjust overseas?

KM: English conditions are difficult to keep in, there are couple of grounds like Leeds and Lord’s where the ball swings a lot. It’s a like a cobra, it bites you somewhere, the last moment it may just drop, and you may not have any idea which way to go. Otherwise, Australia and South Africa are not difficult. But to keep wickets in the subcontinent is the most difficult. I have seen many wicketkeepers struggle

CC: Best buddy from the dressing room?

KM:  Oh! I had loads of people. But definitely, Chandrakant Pandit and Kapil Dev, we had some great time and Sachin Tendulkar. Win matches and then some dance and dhamal in the dressing room, was a lot of fun.

CC: Prediction for the India-New Zealand Test series?

 KM:  We should win this series and its 500th Test going to be played, which will be a big landmark. I would like to wish them all my best wishes and win this series and get India to the top.

CC: Test, ODI or T20Is; which is your favourite format?

More: All forms of cricket, ODI is there, T20 is a big thing now and why not we should always have this game that’s where the crowd comes in, the commercial comes in and tradition should always have the cricket going in Test matches. All formats should go.

(Suraj Choudharian avid cricket follower who plays the sport at club level, is a staffer with CricLife.)