Indian Team Coach: Desi ya Videsi?

Its time for the BCCI to pick the next Coach of the Indian Cricket Team. Greg Chappell had a disastrous stint while his predecessor John Wright had a far better record as Indian coach. According to media reports the search has been narrowed down to a race between Arjuna Ranatunga and Graham Ford (Graham who?). While the former is a well-known, and respected figure in cricketing circles, the latter is a relative unknown. However what makes this appointment interesting is the preference of the senior players in the team for a foreign coach. The former cricketers (Madan Lal, Wadekar, Kapil and others), on the other hand, are very critical about the choice of foreign coach. In a recent statement Kapil Dev while criticizing the present senior players for their preference went as far as reminding them that some of them might be aspirants for the job in the not too distant future! Some go as far as referring to it as “colonial hangover”.

The reality is that cricket is increasingly becoming a very commercial sport and the stakes are getting higher by the day. This is driving the need for a far more sophisticated approach to the game in general. Unfortunately for India’s former players, none of them really have been exposed to a rigorous, methodical approach to the game, as seems to be needed these days. The odds of someone more knowledgeable in modern techniques coming from Australia is far higher than say India. Mohinder Amarnath, the desi contender for the Coach last time, took 45 minutes to fire up his laptop/presentation despite help from a computer expert. Besides, you only have to listen to the commentary of some of India’s former greats, to understand their abilities (or lack off it!) when it comes to analyzing the game. By and large the videsis do a better job at least on this front. The next generation of Indian retired Test and ODI players might actually be better equipped to serve as coaches having been exposed these modern techniques themselves.

It is true that cultural issues are bound to crop up when a foreign coach is in-charge. But that is an area both the players and the coaches need to adjust. The downsides of having a desi coach far outweigh the positives. The biggest downside of a desi coach is that they might have an axe to grind of their own, not to mention that they can often come under pressure from their respective zones. Most of them have their favorites in local cricket, not to mention their sons playing at the domestic level in many cases. Having a zone-based representation in the selection committee is sufficiently complicated. There is little reason to extend this complication by having an Indian coach. The intent of picking an Australian the last time, was a perfectly legitimate one. However, India picked the wrong candidate when it came to a Moody vs Chappell choice.

Its time to learn from the Chappell experience. High profile, super talented players seldom make good coaches. To make matters worse if they tend to be dominant personalities, (as many star players tend to be) it can be a complete mess as in the case of Greg Chappell.

The biggest value a coach can provide Team India is in strategy. Having a bowling coach, a batting coach and fielding coach and a head coach is a complete overkill. When it comes to strategy, there is bound to be a needless clash of ideas. Its best if the number of individuals involved in team strategy is restricted to the captain, his trusted senior players and one coach. Anything beyond strategy such as fitness routines, physiotherapy etc. should be handled by support staff and not specialized coaches.

Ranatunga, a shrewd captain in his days, certainly scores very high on the strategy scale. Ford is a relative unknown but the fact that he is low profile is a good start. At least it removes potential ego-clashes from the list of issues to fear. Nazir Hussain is another name that comes to mind but is seldom mentioned. He might be the best desi-videsi compromise India can find! 🙂
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