Friday, May 18, 2007
What good is a coach, anyway?
"When was the last time you saw an Indian cricket captain in action and went 'Wow, this guy is GOOD'. And, if that is the case, and if our players shut themselves down to any new thoughts, then irrespective of how good the coach is, it's a fool's errand," wrote Homer in response to my piece No coach is no solution. It got me thinking. And I do remember going 'Wow' when Pataudi led India to a victory over the West Indies at Eden Gardens, persisting with Chandrashekhar on the last day despite a string a longhops threatening an early end to the game, and the emotional Bong crowd booing the Nawab for keeping their favourite son Prasanna on third man duty. But such moments have been few and far between. Ganguly had some, although he was tactically poor in the field. I think he resurrected Dravid's one-day career by insisting that he keep wickets in the 2003 World Cup. It made Dravid relax by securing his place in the side, which had been under a cloud until then. It also allowed the top order to play freely, knowing there were many bats to follow, even if the seventh man did not himself contribute much. Azhar had his moments too, the way he handled the spinners, and the flexibility and fluidity with which he moved the field in and out in one-day games, depending on the approach of the batsmen. Dravid, to me, is the most uninspiring captain we've had, but he had his moment too - sensing that the inexperienced Murali Karthik, who had run through the Aussie second innings in the fourth Test in Mumbai in the 2005-06 series, was too tight to finish off the job, and bringing Harbhajan on instead to take the last two wickets with only a few runs to spare. So, I think a good coach, adequately empowered, can perhaps get these moments a little more concentrated. Who knows, we might yet see a Dave Whatmore swing his shirt over his head!