Decoding the role of a coach

Is the coach the ultimate force on the cricket field? He can make a decision that can make or mar. He prepares the battle plans but it is also true that it is not just about the coach in any grade of cricket. He has to have 11 players with the ability to deliver.

Shane Warne has expressed his interest to coach Team India.   -  PTI

How important is the role of a coach? Shane Warne’s opinion on a coach is well established. Left to him, it is a redundant post.

The merits of his argument can be debated but there are many who believe that it ultimately boils down to the performance of the players. True, a bit of tweaking in technique and approach can come in handy in a challenging situation but the onus mostly lies on the players. Rarely on the coach.

In the Indian Premier League (IPL), or during a T20 match, the coach/mentor comes into the picture during tense stages. We are told they can make a decision that can make or mar. They have to sometimes think for the captain, send messages that can impact the game. But how often?

Is the coach the ultimate force on the cricket field? Some of the Indian stalwarts did not fall in line with the coaching philosophy of Australian great Greg Chappell, an acknowledged cricket ‘guru’ otherwise.

If a coach was the ultimate figure making the difference on the field, Kings XI Punjab would not have languished at the bottom of the table in 2015 after having finished runner-up the previous season. If Sanjay Bangar’s magic from the dugout was the reason for the team’s sudden elevation then would the lack of it in 2015 mean the coach was the reason for the miserable performance of the team?

Bangar gained the most, more than the players, from the 2014 edition of the IPL. He was fast-tracked to the National team and has managed to hang in with Team Director Ravi Shastri putting in some kind words for the former Railway batsman. Bangar, however, has failed to revive Kings XI Punjab’s fortunes this year too. At least thus far. It lies at the bottom of the table with five defeats in six matches.

Virender Sehwag, now mentor of Kings XI Punjab, had a coach who taught him the basics and kept reminding him to stick to them until the last match of his career. Sehwag was a kind of player who nodded to everything that was told to him by the coach but he would walk out and do what his mind and heart told him. His hand-eye co-ordination was the driving force.

This is not to suggest that a coach may not have any role. He prepares the battle plans but it is also true that it is not just about the coach in any grade of cricket. He has to have 11 players with the ability to deliver. It pays to have a player-captain like Zaheer Khan, who has transformed the approach of Delhi Daredevils. He sets an example for his team-mates to emulate.

Well defined role

This season the coaches of the teams have remained in the background. Their role is well defined though — to get the best out of the players with the help of the assistants/video analysts/trainers and physios. But what if the players don’t perform?

“I can’t play for them,” an exasperated John Wright had once remarked after an Indian defeat. Bangar, Sehwag and Stephen Fleming may be tempted to say the same. They can only guide and advise with the tacit understanding that ultimately it is the men on the field who make the difference.

It would be interesting to see if Warne accepts an offer to coach, having successfully delivered in 2008 when he was the player. And the coach too!

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