Departed cricketer's former coach and mentor Neil D’Costa convinced that Michael Clarke's team want to win cricket's greatest prize for Hughes, who passed away last November
Sydney: Few cricket professionals would have known the late Phillip Hughes better than Neil D’Costa.
In 2006, Hughes, then just 17, packed his cricket kit to move from his home in Macksville in Northern New South Wales to the hustle and bustle of big city life in Sydney, to train under coach D’Costa, who had then just helped Michael Clarke find his feet at the highest level. D’Costa (44) and Hughes went on to form a strong bond, with the youngster looking up to him as more of a parent than a coach given that his folks lived miles away.
Australia skipper Michael Clarke during the World Cup semi-final against India on Thursday. Pic/Getty Images
Mitchell Starc is another famous D’Costa disciple with the coach having transformed the youngster from a wicketkeeper to a pace sensation. He has also trained current India pacer Umesh Yadav between 2008 and 2011, when he was head coach of the Vidarbha Cricket Association academy in Nagpur.
D’Costa has Indian roots having been born in Chennai (then Madras) and even spent his early years there before shifting Down Under where he went on to play Grade cricket and then armed with a degree in sports science embarked upon a successful coaching career.
In an interview with mid-day, D’Costa spoke about India’s semi-final defeat, his famous wards and the late Hughes among other things. Excerpts:
>> On the India vs Aus semi-final:
I was definitely going for India, after all dil hai Hindustani. But Australia played really well on the day and deserved to go into the final.
>> On his wards Yadav and Starc:
I’m very happy for them, and being a coach, I can’t pick a favourite, so I wanted both of them to do well. And to their credit, they did whatever they did pretty well. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out too well for Umesh. The Australia batsmen just got away from him and then he just couldn’t catch up.
>> On Phillip Hughes serving a motivation to Australia:
The Australian team has been viewing that (Hughes’ demise) as a motivation all the time. They view this World Cup as a way of saying: ‘Hey, we wanna do this for Phillip.’ And I think that’s going to continue. Besides, if you see the discipline they have inculcated since that incident, it is very impressive. In a way, they are representing Phillip out there in this World Cup. It has helped them focus and it will be great if they can continue to galvanise and use him as a motivation to win the tournament.
>> On Phil Hughes’ World Cup dreams, if any:
Most young players, who take up cricket or any other game for that matter, dream of playing for their country some day. And Phillip did (he played 26 Tests and 25 ODIs). But I don’t think he was at a stage where he could think too far ahead in his career as he was in and out of the national team. So, the World Cup was not really discussed by us. As a coach, you have to take things then and there and not think too much about the future, so that’s what I did too.
>> On the Australia vs New Zealand final:
It’ll be a very good game. I think what goes against New Zealand is that they have not played a single game of this tournament in Australia. Though they have beaten the Aussies in the league stage, I don’t think that will have any bearing in the final because at the MCG on Sunday the conditions will be totally different from what they’ve experience back home. I don’t want to predict a winner, but Australia do have a slight advantage playing at home.