Zaheer Khan has been the standout Indian bowler: Dennis Lillee

Dennis Lillee feels modern cricketers are ignoring the basic exercises like running which is important for a fast bowler’s fitness, which is resulting in poor fitness standards. Getty Images

By CricketCountry Staff

Chennai: Jul 1, 2012

Australian legend Dennis Lillee who ended his 25-year association with MRF Pace Foundation has expressed satisfaction over his tenure as the coaching director at the institute.

Lillee, while expressing satisfaction at the output of few Indian fast bowlers after being trained and groomed at the MRF said that many more fast bowlers would be knocking the doors of the national team.

He was quoted by DNA as saying,” There have been a few standouts and a couple of disappointments. There have been a few ones along the way.

“I certainly think you have got a pretty good attack at the moment. As I am talking to you, we have got about 10 young guys who will be knocking at the door within a year or two.”

Lillee feels Indian spearhead Zaheer Khan has been the most impressive bowler to have come out of the MRF Pace Academy.

He said,” Zaheer Khan has been a standout. He s a very complete fast bowler now. He may have gone down from140s (kmph) to 130s. But he is moving the ball, he is a smart bowler now, much smarter now, something you need to survive as a bowler.”

When asked about his experience at the academy, he said,” It has been very enjoyable. I enjoy coaching, which is one of my passions and I studied a lot about it. I know the subject pretty well. It is always good to coach and to be able to leave a mark.”

Lillee said he got the most satisfaction when one of the bowling trainees would go on to play competitive cricket. He said, “When you see them improve their bowling skills, increase their pace and go on to play good cricket, it gives me satisfaction. It is a nice thing to be able to help them do that as they are raw when they come.”

The former Australian bowler said he is proud to be associated with the academy which has been the brainchild of Ravi Mammen. He would miss coming to Chennai which has become a major part of his life.

He said, “Of course, I will. It (Chennai) has been a major part of my life, a very enjoyable part of my life. Working with MRF and the whole team here, from the coaching staff right down to the groundsmen, it s been a pleasure to be involved with them.

“We have had a great team, two great chief coaches in TA Sekar and M Senthilnathan, the groundsmen have been fantastic. Having said that, it was very difficult at the start. I d nearly given up quite a few times.

“Ravi Mammen had the belief we can help find some fast bowlers in India and train them. This was his brainchild, which has been carried on by the brothers and now his nephew. It is a big family concern and they are hundred per cent behind it.”

The Australian refused to accept that only foreigners have benefited from the academy. He said,” As per the Memorandum of Understanding with other countries, they send their best two or three bowlers whereas here we hunt for people from all round India.

“Indian cricketers have realised that it is an incredibly hard game to bowl fast. It took a long time to convince the young Indian boys that they need to do a hell of a lot of hard work. They now understand that. Foreign players, by nature, have to do the work as they are professionals in their country.”

Injury to debutants like Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Varun Aaron has not surprised the former Australian speedster. He feels improper fitness training is the resultant of more young fast bowlers breaking down early in their career.

He said,” It has nothing to do with them trying to impress straightaway. These guys have been bowling fast since they were 12, 13, 14 or 15 years of age. They have not just started bowling fast when they make their debut. You need to look what work they are doing towards fitness and strength.

“It is a different thing to play club cricket, a few Sheffield Shield cricket or first class cricket, and then go on to play continuously. They may not be doing enough strengthening or stretching work. I don t find them running anymore. For fast bowling, running is a major component.”

Lillee feels modern cricketers are ignoring the basic exercises like running which is important for a fast bowler s fitness, which is resulting in poor fitness standards.

“I asked Mitchell Johnson how much running he did. He said “almost nil”. I can t work that out. If a lot of other fast bowlers in the world aren t doing much running, it is one thing they should look at straightaway,” Lillee said.” I would certainly have a good fitness strength and flexibility routine. It means not necessarily the big gym look but having strength and good flexibility. You need to have the aerobic capacity of a midfielder in football. A fast bowler has got to be that fit.”

Though he has retired, one can expect Lillee to return to Chennai to assist young fast bowlers at the academy.

“I won t be retired for sure. I have got a lot of business interests in Perth and do a lot of charity work. I do a little bit of coaching in Perth when the time permits,” said Lillee.” I will be coming back to Chennai in August for a last official time. MRF has asked if I d like to consider coming back for a couple of days every now and again. I am open to that.”