India beaten in TWO World Cup Finals by Indian batting coach

Sydney-based cricket coach Neil D’Costa continues to churn out elite cricketers of the highest quality

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There is an extremely famous Indian-Australian cricket coach who has an awesome record of producing top quality Test batsmen who have regularly dominated in international cricket.

His proteges have included former Australian captain Michael Clarke, the late and lamented Philip Hughes, and the uber-consistent Marnus Labuschagne.

But, Neil D’Costa ain’t stopping.

Far from it.

He is developing the next generation of superstars in both the men’s and women’s games.

He has quite a few in his talent pipeline, and the outstanding ones of sub-continental ethnicity include Harjas Singh who top scored in the recent U19 World Cup Final in South Africa to help Australia defeat India. The turbaned Harjas, an attacking left-handed batter, has already attracted media attention and is being closely tracked by Cricket NSW.

It is not unusual for U19 cricketers to represent their countries in Tests. Three former U19 Captains – Damien Martyn, Brad Haddin, Cameron White – went on to play for Australia. Other U19 cricketers to play in the senior ranks include David Warner, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Josh Hazlewood and Aaron Finch. Quite an impressive, nay predictable, transition and promotion. One hopes that Harjas Singh is able to make it too, and in the process, inspire thousands of young kids of sub-continental ethnicity.

indian origin australian cricketer
U19 star batsman Harjas Singh is a D’Costa mentee (Source: Supplied)

Param Uppal has already tasted success at all levels of the game up to First Class cricket and D’Costa says his best days are ahead of him. Uppal has just finished (topper!) an outstanding season in Premier League in Tasmania.

Another of D’Costa’s star pupils, Hunar Verma, made his First Class debut last season. The lanky 6’ 6” fast bowler is a student at UNSW, with an abiding interest in Robotics as befitting his Engineering background.

Leg-spinner Smit Raval was picked for NSW. Raval worked with D’Costa for three years. A former U22 State player from Gujarat, he came here as a student. There – if you are a student from India, you do have the opportunity to play cricket and crack the big time like Smit Raval has!

Shivani Mehta is another cricketer who is highly thought of. She has already played for the NSW Women’s team (the Breakers) last year, a terrific young opener and a gun fielder – perhaps the best in Australian women’s cricket.

Shivani Mehta opens up about D’Costa (Source: Supplied)

Nick Compton, the former English batsman, trained under D’Costa’s tutelage for over five years and it is no exaggeration to assert that it helped resurrect his flagging career.

Neil D’Costa was born in Sydney to Anglo-Indian parents who called Madras home. He played first grade (Premier cricket) in Sydney – the toughest non-first-class cricket in the world – for Western Suburbs, but realised his calling quite young. He started coaching aged 19.

He is a Level 3 Coach with Degrees in Sports Science, Sports Coaching & Psychology and has previous experience as Head Coach at NSW U19 and District Level.

Proud of his Indian heritage, D’Costa was also Head Coach for the first full-time cricket academy implemented by the BCCI in Vidarbha, India, about a decade ago. Vidarbha went on to win their first Ranji Trophy title with most of the players who trained under D’Costa.

Former Australian Captain Michael Clarke, talking to Indian Link, was effusive in his assessment of D’Costa.

“Neil was like a big brother, and we spent almost every day together since the age of 7,” Clarke said. “His greatest strength is he learns about his charges (students) and gets the best out of them. He does not seek to change their inherent style. Neil’s passion and love for success is transparent and authentic, even if he occasionally raises his voice or swears. He is always true to himself and will never become anyone else.”

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke owes his success to Neil D’Costa (Source: Supplied)

Speaking about his personal game, Clarke revealed, “Neil knew my game very well and improved the areas which needed improvement whilst developing my strengths. He has had a huge impact and an extremely helpful one on my batting.”

He attributes his success significantly to Neil, adding, “He is the best batting coach I ever had. His knowledge of individual players and his phenomenal work ethic, combined with never seeking shortcuts, have contributed to the success of many who have trained under him.”

Clarke adds that D’Costa played a huge part in Phil Hughes’ success, and concludes by saying that Neil and his own dad “were the two most influential people in my cricket career.”

phil hughes
D’Costa was a big part in the late Phillip Hughes’ career (Source: Instagram)

Shivani Mehta was just as adoring of her coach. “Neil has the wildest sense of humour, even if it can be irritating sometimes,” she said. “He will rip into you if you have attitude, and is well-known to yell in frustration.”

Yet, she chuckled, “He is not the right coach for everyone. But if you can take honest, raw feedback, he is THE one. Certainly not for the faint-hearted.”

D’Costa has several other trainees, particularly of South Asian origin who he believes have it within them to go all the way. He is particularly delighted by the achievements of young Arjun Singh in junior cricket. A prodigy and a star in the making.

There is a delicious irony: in the past six months there have been two ICC World Cup Finals in which both Australia and India have figured. In both games, highly influential innings have been played by wards of Neil D’Costa – Marnus Labuschagne in the ICC 50 Over World Cup Final in Ahmedabad in November when he held his own with a patient 58, whilst Travis Head went bang, bang, bang.

Marnus Labuschagne with D’Costa (Source: Supplied)

And, Harjas Singh’s 55 against India in the U19 World Cup Final was influential in helping Australia win that game.

The irony? A coach of Indian ethnicity has enabled Australia to beat India – the land of his forefathers. He understands the mindset, work-ethic, family backgrounds and talent more than any Australian coach, and consequently is able to extract the best from the talented boys and girls.

D’Costa’s tremendous successes need to be acknowledged, recognised and celebrated both by the Australian cricket establishment and the Indian-Australian community of which he is a proud member. There is simply no one else in the world who has single-handedly churned out so many elite cricketers of the highest quality, in the past two decades.

And what about the Indian team? Well, these outstanding Aussie cricketers (mostly of South Asian ethnicity) churned out by Neil D’Costa will keep being a thorn in their flesh and contribute to Australia’s continuing cricket successes.

READ MORE: More Singhs than Smiths in Australian cricket

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