Even as the umpires informed Rohit Sharma and Shakib Al Hasan that the play was set to resume soon after rains relented, one man quietly fished out a big brush from his kit bag. Bangladesh were understandably not too keen to start playing as they held all the cards at that stage but India’s throw down specialist S Raghu was ready with his plan. He prowled the boundary ropes with the brush to scrape the soles of the shoes of Indian players to enable them to move freely on the wet outfield. He would remove the slush off the boot-feet with the thick brush, and also offer them some water.
“Every little thing was taken care of. Raghu knew that the players would have to run on the soggy field and the mud would stick to their spikes. This would hamper their movement and even result in them slipping. This was a game where every little slip-up would have made a difference. Once the game started, he was patrolling the field with the sole purpose of keeping the boots of the players clean,” said a member of the support staff.
What Raghu was doing was beyond his work profile. Hailing from Kumta in northern Karnataka, he had left home to pursue his cricket ambitions in Mumbai in the late 1990s. With his cricketing career not going anywhere, he returned to Bangalore and started helping the coaches and players at the National Cricket Academy. Raghu became a favourite with batsmen as he never got tired of throwing balls at them. Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni would ask him to be around when they trained.
Kohli has gone on record to reveal Raghu’s impact on his batting line-up. “The success of a batsman does not get much significance for those who work for him behind the scenes. But I believe that especially Raghu has made me very strong by practicing on the speed of 140 km,” he had once said. And when you ask, why in a country like India there haven’t been more like Raghu Kohli said: “There can be only one Raghu.”
Raghu would eventually be drafted into the Indian team and he would become the team’s Man Friday. Besides, his primary job, he makes sure that every equipment is in place when the players reach the nets. “On match days, like he did on Wednesday, he helps the team in every possible way,” he says.
Other members of the support staff too went beyond their call of duty during the manic phase of the match. Masseurs Rajeev Kumar and Arun Kanade, after they had tended to the aching bodies, would get busy with mixing drinks for players.
“Some need protein shakes, some electrolyte drinks and some plain water. These people have been part of the Indian team for a while, they share a special bond with players, they also know what the players’ prefer,” said a senior player.
At this World T20, throw down specialists Raghu and Nuwan Seneviratne, along with Kanade and Rajeev, place themselves outside the boundary rope at the four corners of the field during Powerplay in particular. They ensure that the fielders don’t have to retrive the boundary balls. This keeps the fielders fresh and also takes care of the over rate.