One of the success stories of the rejuvenated Interprovincial series has been the emergence of a youthful North West Warriors squad under the guidance of Bobby Rao. The former Indian Test player handed the captain’s armband to Andy McBrine in 2014 and surrounded the then 21-year old with a pool of players of a similar and even younger “vintage” in a move that many felt gave the Warriors a true identity.

Rao has few peers anywhere in Ireland when it comes to one-to-one coaching and it was little surprise when he received an offer to return to his native Hyderabad earlier this year to head up the region’s Development Academy.

Firmly based in Strabane, Bobby had a huge decision to make and with the support of wife Josephine and the family, he took the difficult decision to return to India and sign a 2-year contract. With a bit of time off over Christmas however he is back in Strabane this week and took some time out to give Cricketeurope an update on how things were going in his new project.

“Leaving my family, my work and the North West was a huge wrench for me, but cricket is my passion and this was a big opportunity for me. I had got to the stage where I was in no doubt that I had gone as far as I was likely to go in Irish cricket”.

“It took a while to settle at the start especially since I was laid low for several weeks with a virus. It has been pretty much all go since then however and my team will be getting through a lot of work over the next 18 months. As Director of Coaching I have 20 coaches and a number of Strength and Conditioning personnel and various analysts working with me”.

“We rotate sessions with up to 60 elite youth cricketers at a time and we have already introduced a number of changes to the existing set-up. My day often starts at 5am and might not end at times until 6 in the evening but hours have never once been an issue for me as a coach”.

“There is definitely a lot of work to be done and apart from the coaching and organisational aspect, I intend to do what I did here and look to forge meaningful links between ourselves and government officials in the City. It is hugely important that they see the work that we’re doing so that we can engage their trust and support”.

“One of the most important aspects of modern coaching is to ensure that players are given the opportunity to develop their skills in all sorts of conditions. One of my priorities when I go back will be to organise tours for some of the more advanced underage groups and places like Sri Lanka are ideal for that”.

“Under-17 and particularly under-19 squads are pivotal to the future of every representative team and it will be very disappointing for Irish cricket that our boys missed out on the World Cup qualifiers. I was very fortunate to have been involved in a great era for Ireland at that age group at the end of the 90’s and throughout the early 2000’s so I know what it means to the management and players”.

“We had some great times- taking an excellent side to Sri Lanka in 2000 that included Niall O’Brien, Ryan Haire John Mooney. Dom Joyce and Andrew White as well as a trio of North West players- Johnny Gardiner, Jordan McGonigle and Dwayne McGerrigle. That team lost by just 5 runs in that tournament to an Australia side captained by Michael Clarke”.

“Things change over the years in cricket and you have to adapt very quickly in order to keep up. The biggest thing in the sport now is that players have to learn to play spin bowling, especially in spin-friendly conditions. Everywhere you play in the world now batsmen are rigorously tested by spin”.

“There may be cost involved at the start but in the long term our underage groups need to spend quality time learning to adapt to these conditions, making tours all the more critical. You can’t just turn up and play in sub-continent conditions and that is something we all have to adapt to”.

Asked if he had kept abreast of all things Warriors while he was away the former Head Coach said that he got occasional updates from the North West. “Things are really busy at the minute as we go about looking at ways to improve the Academy. I do ask when I’m in contact with home but things appear to be very quiet at present for some reason”.

“There are a lot of really good young players in the North West both in the Warriors squad and also just outside it. I hope that things are sorted out sooner rather than later for their sake and that the Warriors will continue to improve again in 2016. We have a fantastic bunch of home-grown players and the region should be really proud of what they have achieved”.

Bobby’s immediate future seems him head back to India in two weeks’ time aware that he has plenty to keep him occupied until the summer. His Hyderabad contract is for 2 years initially however early feedback would suggest that they will be keen to keep him beyond that.

Whether he will stay on or return to Ireland at some point is something Bobby and the family will consider in due course.