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Role of a cricket coach

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Coach-cricket-IPL"John Buchanan of Australia has won 75% of matches at all levels, far more than anyone in the history of the game," Hugh Morris told the Daily Mail.

This was a statement made by the managing director of ECB; when he was scouting for a coach after Moores - KP fiasco. Just having a glance at that statement on Daily mail made me go into discombobulated stupor for a while. For a cricket aficionado, who believes, those 11 players who play a game of cricket win you matches, that statement came as a rude shock. You just wondered after Buchanan is long gone; whether all those cricket administrators will join together to create an epitaph for him in Hell's door in Turkmenistan.

Before a few cricket fans pounce on me and make mincemeat of my assertion, I would clarify that I am not suggesting a coach's job is of a bus driver, who takes the players to the ground and back to the hotel. My belief is; a coach can play a supporting role, but it is the captain who drives the team forward. It is finally up-to those 11 players representing their team, to perform and help the team to win games. A coach isn't some God having a magic wand that will transform the team from one of those also rans to world beaters.

Once the game starts, a coach in international cricket can't even substitute a player, who looks out of sorts. Yes, if someone gets injured; another player can come in and field in his place, but can't bowl or bat.

So, how can a coach help a team in international cricket?

Bad habits - A young player, or even a senior player can get into bad habits (cricket related). There are occasions, when a batsman is playing across the line very early in his innings and he isn't trusting his defence enough. You can also think of a bowler, who is bowling too short. A coach can just spot it and during a break tell him "Hi, why don't you try to play straight on a pitch that has turn and bounce."

Right advice at the right time - In the opposition ranks, there is a great batsman, who is going great guns in the series. The captain and his team members too are scratching their heads, as to how to find a way past the wall in the opposition ranks. Here again a coach can step in and give a few tips about how to find a way past him. What the captain, or his team members may not be able to see on a cricket field, the coach may pick up a flaw. These days, with analysts around and so much information available on the internet, nothing remains a secret for long.

Man-management skills - Experts keep banging on how important it is for a coach to be good at man management. To some extent it is true as that is one area, where a coach can show his expertise and his true worth.

We can think of factors like good communication, relationship building skills and problem solving skills. Communication skills just doesn't mean that you have to talk in a manner, where the team members understand what you're trying to say. It also means you need to captivate and motivate them with your talk. The coach has to gain the confidence of the team members by being respectful and considerate towards them. Even look to solve the problems that a player is facing. It can be anything ranging from cricket related, or even personal problems. If a coach feels something is wrong with how a certain player is playing, or behaving, he can have an one to one chat with him and look to work out a plausible solution.

If the Kiwi coach Mike Hesson was in the demanding and competitive corporate world, he would have been fired straightaway. In a meeting with the captain and your best batsman; how can you not communicate that you are recommending a change in captaincy only for the shorter formats of the game? The communication error has meant that the Kiwis have lost their best batsman, Ross the Boss for the tour of Safferland.

India's current coach, Duncan Fletcher was rated highly for his tactical nous. Before the '03 WC match against Pakistan, Nasser Hussain and co. were said to be scratching their heads, as to how to get the run machine from Pakistan Mohammad Yousuf out. Within no time Fletch is said to have seen a video of Yosuf's style of batting and is believed to have said; yorker that shapes away slightly from him. Mind you, it takes high level of skill to bowl that delivery, but the young man with those weird  hairstyles called Anderson executed the plan perfectly in that match.

Under his guidance, England went onto become a successful Test side. England won the Ashes for the first time in 05, beat Saffers, Pakistan and Sri Lanka away from home as well. I am not suggesting for even one minute that he was the sole architect  of England's success during that time, but he played the role of supporting the captain very well.

As the coach of the Indian team, he seems to have lost his touch. You wonder though, whether it is because he is asked to work with a team with his hands tied behind his back? A coach plays more of a supporting role, but he at least should have a say in various matters related to cricket.

What interested me more was an article in which some players speaking on the condition of anonymity said, he is of little use to the team. It was said that he only told basic things, confused a young player so much that it resulted in him going through a lean patch and didn't help Dravid and SRT to iron out flaws.

I can certainly take on the last bit, where it is said that he didn't help Dravid and SRT to iron out flaws. Having scored well over 10,000 test runs; neither SRT nor Dravid would completely lose it. Even at the fag end of his illustrious career, you can see SRT playing the odd straight drive, or the cover drive, but with age, everyone will slow down. In short, one can't expect Fletch to fight with nature's rule.

The other point was about Fletch telling only basic things. Well, cricket isn't some rocket science. For instance, in the test series against England, the only problem that Kohli had was; nibbling at deliveries outside the off-stump. To overcome that problem all it takes is; showing a bit more discipline by leaving deliveries outside the off-stump. If indeed Fletch has confused some youngster, then there are problems aplenty. Good coaches look to keep it simple.

Kohli himself praised Fletcher and Kirsten before the series against England. Ironically, this interview was published by the same newspaper in which it was said that Duncan was of little help.

Well, how can a coach, who supposedly has immense knowledge about the game become poor overnight? Of course, there have been occasions in the past one year, when a cricket fan like me sitting in front of the TV set has wondered why India aren't doing this, or doing that? It is easier to analyse, when you are watching a game of cricket on a TV set, but India's think-tank have been reactive with their plans. Let me clarify that I am in no way trying to defend uncle Fletch in this article. When ardent cricket fans talk so much about an international cricket coach though; you wonder whether just waving a magic wand and telling abracabradabra can help a team to win games. However, Fletch no doubt should be held accountable for all those disasters that India have suffered. It is just that even those non performing players and maybe even the captain should be held accountable for the defeats as well.



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