Arun the ‘impact coach’ makes his presence felt

Bharat Arun for KKR
Bharat Arun for KKR (PC: KKR/X)

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in their first match of the season, against Sunrisers Hyderabad. From a commanding position, they land in a spot of bother. With 13 to defend in the last over against a marauding Heinrich Klaasen, Harshit Rana pulls it off.

Kolkata Knight Riders in their last match of season, against Sunrisers Hyderabad. They are bowling first and the opening batters of their rivals are carrying serious threat. Vaibhav Arora shares the new ball with Mitchell Starc and claims the vital wicket of Travis Head.

Isolated incidents they were. At different venues and in different conditions with different goals to defend. That KKR had the last laugh on both occasions, and in many more matches in IPL 2024, is the bottom line of this story, and these two uncapped fast bowlers had a lot to do with it.

When the season began, even the most dedicated of KKR fans must have shuddered thinking what kind of attack they had. Mitchell Starc was there and so were the spinners, but no Indian fast bowler worth a mention appeared to be too much of a risk. Could they do it?

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Harshit Rana with KKR players
Harshit Rana with KKR players (PC: KKR/X)

A couple of months later, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Arora and Rana went on to become pillars in a versatile attack that strangulated the opposition when it mattered. Arora dealt body blows with the new ball and Rana choked batters at the death.

The TV cameras focussed on him only a few times during the most one-sided IPL final ever. Sitting in the dugout, B Arun must have been a satisfied man. The bowling coach remains in the background and keeps quiet, but his wards made as loud a statement as the IPL has seen in 17 years.

Arun was the bowling coach of the national side when India’s fast bowling stocks reached an all-time high. Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and even Bhuvneshwar Kumar blossomed like never before during Arun’s tenure under Ravi Shastri, the head coach. They got a second lease of life. Whether Arun was the sole reason is difficult to say, but it’s a fact that these bowlers rediscovered themselves and prolonged their careers when he was supervising them.

Two unheralded fast bowlers like Arora and Rana living up to the IPL challenge and coming up trumps against established international stars suggests Arun’s inputs were crucial. A former bowling all-rounder from Tamil Nadu, he is highly rated by everybody he has worked with at the National Cricket Academy and state teams like Hyderabad and Bengal.

Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc (PC – BCCI)

Mohammed Siraj is not exactly Arun’s discovery, but he polished himself and made it to the Indian team when Arun was the coach of Hyderabad. T Natarajan delivered in Australia in 2021 when Arun was a part of the national set-up. These can’t be coincidences. Truth be told, the bowlers he worked with say they are indebted to his technical inputs.

To see Arora and Rana play a massive part in KKR’s triumph is actually a validation of the thought that Arun makes his charges better bowlers. It took some time to make this uncapped duo household names but he has done it. Roles defined according to different stages of play, plans made and steadfastly followed — it is obvious that a lot of thought went into the whole thing.

As the dust settles and the euphoria sinks in at KKR, they must raise a toast to their bowling coach. To make a champion bowling unit out of a clutch of unknown names is tremendous work. For all you know, Arun will keep quiet and be open to the odd interview request. The impact he made in a tournament which introduced the ‘impact player’ may still not be fully fathomed.

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