A bad time for coaches

Sachin Tendulkar should be the player element in the committee to be constituted to go into the affairs of Indian cricket.-AP

The outstanding coach in 2007 has been Tom Moody. The Australian has been brought up in the tradition of common sense, knowhow and history, writes Bob Simpson.

Coaches have been the real losers after the World Cup. No less than six Test playing nations will change their coaches, either because of poor performances in the Cup or pre-determined retirements such as those of John Buchanan (Australia) and Dav Whatmore (Bangladesh).

Bob Woolmer's tragic death has left a vacancy in Pakistan. Even had he been alive, he might have retired or been replaced.

As I write, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka look like retaining their coaches, while New Zealand's captain Fleming has stood down from that position.

England, India, Pakistan and the West Indies, the big losers at the 2007 World Cup, all have much to do.

Of those leaving, 90% have been clipboard or computer coaches relying on technology, biomechanics or science to dictate the direction they will follow.

Five of them — Woolmer, Whatmore, Bennett King (West Indies), Fletcher and Buchanan — came from cricketing academies in various parts of the world. Three of them are Australians.

To me, the outstanding coach in 2007 has been Tom Moody. Another Australian, but one brought up in the tradition of common sense, knowhow and history.

Moody made the most of his players' talents by allowing the natural skills to flourish and not be hindered by fashion fads and theories. There was no cloning evident in the Sri Lankan team and the naturalness and difference of styles were delightfully exhibited.

Moody also ensured that his players enjoyed what they were doing. If the players enjoy playing the game you won't hear the wornout phrase, "We worked Hard!" Good Lord, if you are doing something that you enjoy and love with passion, surely it can't be a hard grind.

The refreshingly open enjoyment of the Sri Lankan team was so different to the grim countenance and desperation that so many other players exhibited in the World Cup.

Have the financial rewards of international cricket taken away the love and pleasure of competing and playing in the greatest game of all? Or am I too old fashioned to believe that enjoyment leads to better performances.

Yes, certainly there will be times in the nets and in the other areas of getting fit, such as the gym, when you might feel weary. But even here this is generally secondary to the thrill of knowing that these sessions are enhancing your fitness and skills to be a better player.

I have been able to follow the goings-on in India, after the team's disastrous performance in the West Indies, through the excellent coverage in The Hindu newspaper.

I was delighted to see the former Indian captains being called upon to express their views. I was less than pleased to note the hurry in which this meeting was convened. But good sense must prevail is my advice to those involved at this time.

Yes, some tough decisions have to be made about Indian cricket. I have spent enough time coaching in India to know that it is blessed with a huge amount of talented cricketers. I have also seen enough to know that most of the youngsters are not getting the best and soundest of advice.

So this makes the job of coming up with what is wrong with Indian cricket, not just at the very top level, but also in the development years of these talented youngsters, very difficult.

New theories have always abounded in cricket. Not so many years ago, greater fitness was the call and at one stage every state in Australia had a physical training teacher in charge of the squads.

The net result was that too much time was spent at physical conditioning to the detriment of honing the skills and techniques of cricket.

Norman O'Neill summed it up pretty well when he laconically whispered to me as we watched players piggy backing on their mates up the hills at the old Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2, "Do you reckon Simmo, that this will help improve a batsman's cover drive?"

Fitness has always been needed to play successfully at the top level of the game, but much more can be gained physically and mentally if you incorporate skills along with fitness when practising.

As I think more and more about the committee to look into India's problems, I can't help wondering whether there are too many on the committee and whether their vision will be wide enough.

When you add BCCI men to this committee it is going to be rather large and cumbersome when it comes to decision time. I would like to see an outsider with knowledge of Indian cricket — and also up to date with modern cricket — who could be the voice of reality when it comes to hard decisions.

I would also add to the Committee a current player who has up to date knowledge of just what is happening at the top end of world cricket. Sachin Tendulkar would be ideal. He has had 17 years of Test cricket and is ideally placed to know exactly what is going on and I suspect what is needed.

Just where does this committee start?

My thought would be right at the top, for if the top is straightened out and the right systems applied, then those decisions can filter down to the lower levels.

Obviously, a new coach is high on the agenda. Once chosen he must be given the time to get things right. This won't happen overnight, so all the planning must be for the future. Attention should also be given to doing as well as you possibly can at present, but always with a clear view to the future.

The top priority must be as to who of the older brigade should be retained and who the future players are.

To me the major yardstick must be attitude. As to who will go the extra yard time after time when it is needed. Time is also of essence, so whoever finally decides these issues must move quickly.

I have no doubt that Rahul Dravid is still the man for the captain's job. He has the talent and the respect of the players and you can't ask for more than this.

I notice that the board and the advisory group have recommended that the lid be kept tight on the number of endorsements that a player can have. I wonder whether the committee will have the same restrictions. Many of them are high profile personalities who have benefited financially from their cricketing fame.

What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and it seems incongruous to me that players are restricted, but not those framing the rules. This can only cause dissatisfaction among the players.

When I took over as coach of Australia I gave away all my lucrative media work as I thought it would pose a conflict of interest. I am glad I did.

I applaud the decision to appoint Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad as fielding and bowling coaches. They will do an excellent job.

I am not sure what Ravi Shastri's appointment as Cricket Manager means. Will he also be the Manager for the team, dealing with administration and all that and will he also be in charge as the coach?

What is absolutely vital is that the lines of communication should be sorted out earlier. Otherwise, it will only cause confusion.

Will Ravi also continue his outside interest with the Media and I believe, player management?

One of the things that really intrigued me was a statement that "there was a possibility of a handful of working committee members persuading Sunil Gavaskar to take over the mantle from Greg Chappell."

Gavaskar had once briefly taken charge from the ailing Ajit Wadekar in Sharjah. And not long ago, in a home series against South Africa, he was also the batting consultant to the team for a period when John Wright was the coach.

According to a senior functionary of the BCCI, Gavaskar is a man of stature, will command respect and no one will raise a question. Moreover he worked gratis on both the occasions.

I don't think working gratis should be a criterion to get the best man, and the BCCI, too, want him only because Sunil was a wonderful cricketer and everyone would respect him.

For a long, long time Sunil has been a strong critic of almost all the coaches and the Indian teams' performances and wasn't the No.1 popular person with the Indian squad.

It would be fascinating to see Sunny being appointed as coach, for then he would understand what a difficult role it is. He would also have to drop all his endorsements and media work for they pose a conflict of interest.

I will watch with great interest as to how all this turns out. I have pointed out just a few problems that the BCCI faces in monitoring and planning the future of Indian cricket.

I hope they all recall the great Don Bradman's message to the Australian Team in the late eighties.

"Remember, in your time in cricket you are but a custodian of the game working to leaving the game the better for your presence."

I wish India's current worries will be sorted out soon, for World Cricket is better when India is in top form.