Indian Premier League: Welshman Steffan Jones preaching pace at Rajasthan

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales
Steffan Jones' journey from Llangennech to cricket's grandest tournament

It is a long way from Llangennech in Carmarthenshire to Jaipur in Rajasthan.

There is also a world of difference between cricket's County Championship and the Indian Premier League.

It's the gulf Welshman Steffan Jones, 45, will be bridging after being appointed fast bowling coach at Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.

In a 14-year playing career Jones turned his arm over for Somerset, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and Kent between 1997 and 2011, but admits he did not make many headlines.

He is hoping to change that in the grandest cricket tournament which starts this week in India with global television audiences reaching 700 million.

"My desire is to be the best fast bowling coach in the world," said Jones, who is taking a break from his job as director of sport at Wellington School in Somerset to fulfil his role in India where he'll work with Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer.

"I was a resilient player. I learned how to pick myself up a lot and the best coaches are never the best players.

"I was not as talented as a lot of people, but they played half as much time as me because I worked harder."

Jones' modesty about his playing ability contrasts with his ambition as a coach: "I do baseball camps, javelin consultancy so all skills that are transferrable to fast bowling.

"I don't learn a lot in cricket itself which is a long way behind other sports.

Ben Stokes
England's Ben Stokes is playing for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL

"I think outside the box and the results speak for themselves and am in a fortunate position."

Jones opted to move to Wellington School after turning down an option to become a player-coach at Derbyshire believing he would benefit from a spell away from the game.

But it was a stint with Hobart Hurricanes in the 2017 Australian Big Bash League that opened the door to the IPL.

While there Jones worked with England's Stuart Broad and former Australia fast bowler Shaun Tait which helped open doors.

"My profile on social media has increased and certain powerful people saw it," said Jones.

"The exposure I got from Stuart Broad saying I was one of the best bowling coaches he had worked with was pretty big for me ... for a Llangennech boy working in a school in the south west on England.

"I do coach a lot of international players and I think it was Rahul Dravid, because I coach in his academy, who pushed me towards the Royals.

"I met up with the general manager and the rest is history."

Jones was a fast-medium bowler by trade, but pace is at the heart of his coaching philosophy.

"Pace is everything," he added. "It's the X-factor and those who say it is not important are probably the ones who can't coach it.

Shaun Tait congratulates Stuart Broad during a game for Hobart Hurricanes
Stuart Broad (right) praised Jones after being coached by the Welshman at Hobart Hurricanes

"I am very much a numbers-driven coach based on science and facts which you can't argue with.

"My coaching is about getting one ball faster. Not everyone can bowl 90mph, but they can bowl a bit quicker and it is about taking the brake off."

Test all-rounder Stokes and England hopeful Archer will be under Jones' tutelage at the Rajasthan Royals.

"Jofra is express pace," said Jones.

"I did some work with him a couple of months ago and his numbers showed I could help him.

"Ben Stokes is my sort of guy and I am looking forward to working with him.

"He doesn't know how good he could be and it's my job as a coach to instil that in him.

"The data shows he bowls as quick as anyone and he is match-winner."

Jones never played cricket for Glamorgan but will become the first Welsh coach or player involved in the IPL which he admits could be a life-changing experience.

"It's insane and I can't wait to test myself at the top," said Jones.

"I am not prepared for the enormity of it at all. I know it's going to be massive and you play and travel a lot so you become more of a stress manager than a coach.

"I have spent hours designing tactical, technical and physical programmes for all the bowlers. It seems we have gone heavy on pace, which suits me perfectly."

Jones is in no doubt how his side will fare in the franchise tournament with eight teams competing.

"We will win it. Absolutely, I am confident in that," said Jones.

"If we prepare properly and let the players express themselves with the ridiculous talent there like Archer, Jos Butler, Stokes and Ajinkya Rahane, who can all change the game."

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