Friday, May 18, 2007

If it's Whatmore, what next?

I ended my last piece on Whatmore - What more do we want? - with the hope, somewhat in vain, that if he is selected, he should then be sufficiently empowered. Let's expand on that.
The Indian cricket board is taking its time to find a replacement for Greg Chappell. It can mean either of two things: that the board had no contingency plan in the event of a flop show at the World Cup, even though a flop was only to be expected given the earlier flops in Malaysia, South Africa and the Champions Trophy; or, to be more charitable, that it wants to pick the right man for the job. Now, if Whatmore is picked, what next?
In business or sports, leadership is the most important thing. So the first issue to be resolved is whether the administrators, selectors and players will rally around Whatmore as the national cricket team's leader. Or will he be expected to play a mere supporting role? I think in today's cricket, it's better for the coach to take the leadership position. Strategy, tactics, SWOT analyses, work ethic, talent scouting, psycho support, media management, team building, infrastructure, support staff - there's a lot on the plate, and it's best for the captain to focus only on the operations part of it: mainly, to think on his feet during the game and lead from the front by putting his own game in order.
The second pre-requisite for Whatmore to have any chance of being effective is a long tenure, say till the next World Cup. This would insulate him a little from the vagaries of cricket board politics. Look at the number of years that John Buchanan served Australia - Eight. It helps the players too by bringing some continuity in processes, assessments and strategies. Of course, there needs to be an exit clause in case things go badly wrong, but which cannot ordinarily be invoked.

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