The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world of sports to a standstill but even in this lull, cricketers along with other sportspersons are doing their bit to keep the public and fans engaged. MS Dhoni and R Ashwin are leading the way as their academies are conducting online cricket coaching classes.

Dhoni may not be directly involved in the operations of his academy, but the MS Dhoni Cricket Academy is offering live classes on Facebook for its trainees. Ashwin’s academy on the other hand, is also holding online classes, at times featuring the star offspinner himself, Times of India reported.

“We are clocking almost 10000 views across all platforms for every video,” Satrajit Lahiri, who is a former First-Class cricketer and chief coach of Dhoni’s academy, told TOI. “We have an app called Cricketor where we regularly upload demo drills. The trainees also need to upload their videos so that we can keep a tab on their activities. We give feedback accordingly.”

The process is simple. The batsmen are to throw balls against the wall and play it back with soft hands, with Lahiri, who monitors the videos, reveal it helps in hand-eye coordination along with a tight defence. As for the bowlers, their actions and run-up is studied and examined thoroughly.

“There are aspects that can be sharpened even on the terrace or any little expanse inside the house without hurling the ball. Bowlers can work on things like grip, loading, building action and action without releasing the ball. If they get these things right, release will become better. Spinners, in particular, can do a lot at home,” Lahiri was quoted as saying by the New Indian Express.

“Plenty of things look minute but require constant polishing. Things like backlift, defending, playing strokes can be perfected by doing shadow practice. The online tutorials have separate episodes on batting, fast and spin bowling, fielding and wicketkeeping. There are chapters on mental and physical fitness as well.”

Started in 2017, the MSDCA has over 5,000 trainees in 25 centres across the country. The academy is run by Aarka Sports Private Limited, a company which also manages Dhoni.

“We didn’t devise this online manual looking ahead to a general shutdown. We were working on it for about a year and this break gave us an opportunity to launch it. Like most of our projects, Dhoni has gone through the details of this one and approved it. We consult him at the planning stage and finalise after he offers his suggestions,” said Mihir Diwakar, MD of Aarka Sports.

Online coaching is no longer new during this lockdown. Besides cricket, the All India Football Federation has also come up with online classes for more than 300 referees. 200 referees from Category 1 are reportedly undergoing online exams classes on alternate days hoping to keep up with the new laws and brush up their knowledge.

“This is an ideal opportunity to educate and improve the knowledge of referees and they will have a holistic development. It will help them to learn things as they don’t have any major engagements during this phase at the moment. We felt going digital was the best option to reach the referees,” AIFF director of referees, J Ravishankar said.

Saina Nehwal’s childhood coach Vimal Kumar, who is in charge of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, reveals how the classes that are conducted go beyond the orthodoxy of training.

“Apart from strength & conditioning and yoga sessions on Skype, there is also the psychological aspect that we are focusing on. At a time like this, players can get very bored. This is an opportunity to work on their mindset. You are being forced into a corner and doing what you don’t want. It gives you a chance to learn to deal with these situations,” Vimal said.