Thursday, May 12, 2005

Man For The Job

This has been one of the longest gaps between posts since we started this blog...anyway, let's get on with it! Well, things are heating up on the coaching front, and the BCCI has announced an 'initial short list' of four worthy individuals who would be interviewed for a chance to try their hand at guiding the Indian team. A team that has been going downhill of late. I think John Wright's departure may have been in the planning for a while considering he is a meticulous man, nevertheless it was also good timing since the team under Ganguly and Wright was unable to arrest the downward slide. That gives at least two years to a new team management, with or without Ganguly, to build for the next World Cup. I do hope Ganguly gets one last opportunity (I'm ready to cop it on this one!), but I will move on pretty easily even if he doesn't. I do hope he comes back as a batsman, because he is a match winner in the one-day game. There has been the predictable Indian vs. Foreign coach debate once again and frankly, it is silly. It should be simple, really (in principle at least) - just find the best man for the job. That obviously involves factors such as experience, cricketing credentials (not necessarily as a player) and man management skills. And of course, there is money (I'm sure the BCCI is glad none of the candidates are represented by Pini Zahavi!). Understandably, some people can't be bothered about all this hoopla surrounding coach. Ultimately, they insist (like Harsha Bhogle, for instance), it is the players who win games. Well, yes. However, even though it's important not to portray the coach as a sort of a messiah, looking at results over the last two decades or so, it's hard to underplay the role of a good coach. Bob Simpson, for example, was as instrumental as Allan Border in the revival of Australia's fortunes in the late 1980's. And what about the success the Woolmer/Cronje or the Hussain/Fletcher partnerships enjoyed? All coincidences? Unlikely. Apparently, John Buchanan thinks the role of a coach could/should become redundant. When I read that, it instantly reminded me of the comment a soccer journalist made (as told by Brian Glanville in The Sportstar) about Sepp Blatter when he was Joao Havelange's right hand man at FIFA - that he had 50 ideas everyday, of which 51 were bad! Now, I'm not going to be as uncharitable about Buchanan, but he does have a habit of pontificating on just about everything. But to be fair, I like his idea of ambidextrous players, something quite common in baseball. I have been amazed by switch hitters like Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves or Reuben Sierra of the Yankees. These guys are in the same league as the best hitters in the business. Switch hitting is part of the baseball culture, and if it is encouraged in cricket, a new dimension may open up. Getting back to the main theme though, it's good to see Jimmy Amarnath and Sandip Patil in the fray. I hope they haven't been short listed just to appease certain quarters, because both are capable men. Patil, of course, has coaching experience aplenty. Back in the days when I followed domestic cricket, pros like Patil and Chandrakant Pandit helped transform the fortunes of lesser teams, being not just captain of the team, but a sort of a father figure. If I remember right, it was during Patil's captaincy that Madhya Pradesh, never really a contender, went all the way to the Ranji finals. Such commitment and professionalism in the domestic wilderness speaks volumes. - NK

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