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!

11 comments:

Homer said...

Sumit,

Today was a textbook example of how poor captaincy is costing India..

And this story is repeated match after match, captain after captain.

And it happens despite the coach, the personnel, the conditions, the venues, the era.

Homer said...

Sumit,

Here is a question for u.. This lack of initiative that is seen in captain after captain - how much is this a reflection on how we, as Indians, think about and approach the game at all levels, starting from underarm gully cricket all the way thru to the international stage?

Do you, like me, believe that we are inherently conservative in our thoughts and actions vis a vis cricket?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

I think around the time you were posting this comment, I was lamenting about Dravid's conservatism at your blog! I think risk-taking comes from confidence. Dravid's not a natural leader, and lacks confidence as a captain. Our system too does not reward risk-takers. It wasn't just Dravid: Sachin and Sourav went off for bad light with 13 overs to go on the first day, and it's unbelievable that with no chance of losing the Test match, Sachin should again accept the offer of bad light on the fourth evening. It sucks. Another instance of individual interest getting the better of team requirements. Dravid's the captain, and threw his wicket away, going for shots. The others won't.

Homer said...

Sumit,

But its also a question of approach isn' it?

In the Ranji Trophy, where the stakes are not as high, you see the same conservatism. Captains dont risk a loss in going for a win.. everyone is contnt with a draw.

And if we think draw all thru our formative years, isnt it difficult to change that mindset later on?

And could this be the reason why Indians are attracted to the horted version of the game where a result is forced upon the teams, whether they like it or not?

Are ODIs our guilty pleasure?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

Ya, you have something there. The Ranji format is idiotic. Teams play for a first innings lead, taking their own sweet time, and then it fizzles out with never any time to complete the second innings. We should either make them five-day matches, or just play one innings in three days which would force a team to get on with it and declare to get a result in time.

Chandan said...

I don't agree that Sachin should not have taken light on both days. it was no use playing in such dark conditions where you can't sight the ball from the bowler's hand.

What would you gain by using a wicket unnecessarily?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

Maybe. But at around 300/3 with two set batsmen going strong in their eighties, I would have thought it was a risk worth taking to give the team a better chance of forcing a win, since rain had been predicted. And it's not the first time we have lost out in this fashion. I think it also happened in the Sydney Test where we lost a historic opportunity to win a series in Australia. I think the Aussies are the least conservative and that is one of the reasons for their success. Our batsmen tend to put their own interests above those of the team, and I don't blame them for it because sacrifices for the team are neither remembered nor rewarded.

Homer said...

My two cents...

Gains and losses aside, batting on is a statement of intent.

By batting in bad light, two messages are sent -

1. We are not afraid of playing you in the dark and that puts perspective on what we think of your bowling attack

2. We are positive inspite of the circumstances. We are here to make the most of the limited opportunities available to us.

A textbook example of intent shown and rewards gained was the second day of the test at Headingley in 2002 between India and England.

India rattled 97 runs in 68 blls for the loss of one wicket after England had taken th new ball and Nasser Hussain had complained about the light to the umpires.

And we all know the outcome of that test match :)

Chandan said...

Homer,

Its all fine--the intent! But tell me how silly they'd have looked had they got out then?
Plus the score was not as much to feel safe at that point and these two were the last specialist bats.

So the safety net that we had at Headingley was not here, nor was the score as many as we had at Headingley then. And then it was the first day. So why should they have taken a chance?

Homer said...

Chandan,

Woudwe have looked any sillier than we did now?

And at what point in our cricket do we say, to hell with playing safe, lets try something out there.

And I am not expecting something fancy either - given the circumstances, given the opposition and given the conditions, decisions have to be made.

Then why safety first decisions take precedence?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

How many times have we lost a match going for too much? Conversely, how many matches can we recollect having lost or drawn by being too cautious? I think the latter variety is easier to recall.