Need for good support staff

ADRIAN LE ROUX'S decision not to renew BCCI's contract and go to his home cricket Board has predictably given rise to plenty of speculation.

SUNIL GAVASKAR

It was to trainer Adrian le Roux's credit that the Indian team was at its fittest in the recent season. — Pic. N. BALAJI-

ADRIAN LE ROUX'S decision not to renew BCCI's contract and go to his home cricket Board has predictably given rise to plenty of speculation. Most of it centres around the role played by the BCCI and whether it was lax in making sure that Le Roux stayed with the Indian team. The BCCI had done all it could by offering all three — John Wright, Adrian Le Roux and Andrew Leipus — terms for another year, but Le Roux decided that for him it was his home Board that came first and so he turned down the offer and so the BCCI is not at fault at all.

There will always be those who will feel that the BCCI should have done more but will not spell out what that more is, to retain Le Roux's services. Quite simply, it is Le Roux who has gone back on his commitment, if at all there was one from him, and considering that he was to come to the NCA for a Seminar on Physical Trainers, it did appear that he had made a commitment to Indian cricket, and he has backed out, now that his own country has offered him an opportunity to work with its team. That is perfectly understandable, for it is an honour to be working for one's own country, and if he can get the same results in fitness that he got from the Indian team, then he will have done a great service to his team.

There's not the slightest doubt that it was his and Leipus' commitment and dedication that saw the Indian team at its fittest in years and the fact that the quick bowlers who are prone to breaking down quicker than others had a more or less injury free year, is a tribute to their fitness programme and regime. Fast bowlers by the very nature of their work need to be looked after carefully, and though they all had little niggles, there was nothing really that made them miss out on the big match and that's again a compliment to the duo. Why, the manner in which they got Ashish Nehra fit for the crucial game against England is folklore now and Nehra responded by taking his best-ever figures in limited-overs internationals. The BCCI has now asked the coach John Wright to help it secure the services of a physical trainer like Le Roux, and luckily there's a gap before the season starts, so there will be time for the new man to settle in his job.

While Le Roux going away was not good news, there was great news to hear that Ravi Shastri had been asked by the South Africans to help them with their media relations as they embark on a tour of England. With a new captain and lots of pressure on the team after the disappointing show in the World Cup, the South Africans realised that they need friends in the media too, for otherwise the pressure will be relentless. The fact that some of the players had dedicated the World Cup to disgraced captain Hansie Cronje is enough reason for some in the British media to give the team a hard time and to counter all this needs someone who is media savvy. Ravi has been on several tours as a player, and now as a media-person himself, he knows what the South Africans can expect when they land in England. Graeme Smith in particular will be watched closely and he more than anybody else will have to be at his best in tackling the British press. He is a pleasant young man, full of confidence and I am sure he will not have a problem, but if his team is not doing well then yes, he will have to be on his toes at media meetings.

More than the British media, it's the Australian media that visiting teams have to watch out for. The Aussie media is almost like an extension of their team and zeroes in on a player that they feel threatens their team. That player will be put under the microscope and has to stand the utmost scrutiny. The Indians who are going there later in the year will find that soon enough, but at this stage it's the captain Sourav Ganguly who is certain to be the target of the Australians in much the same way as he was the target when the Indians toured England last year. Not that it will bother Ganguly too much, but don't be surprised at the Aussie media going hammer and tongs at the Indian captain. They will no doubt be aided to some extent by the Indian media, which has in its ranks some who do not like the captain. Remember when the Aussies were here two years ago, the level of criticism of Ganguly was much more in the Indian media and made one wonder if they had also joined the Aussie team.

The BCCI will not ask an Australian to come down and give some advice on how to handle their media, but if a captain is clear what his objectives are and that is to win on the field, then he really does not need to have lessons on how to deal with the off-field matters which should be left to the media manager and the manager of the team. It is here that one hopes that the BCCI will be careful in its nomination, for this is going to be an important tour, one that could change the way Indian cricket is perceived and the players need the best support staff that can be got, and if that means that the BCCI policy of giving carrots is to be kept on hold so be it.

These are the days of satellite TV and multi-channels and so the demand for a story or a new angle to everything will be there and it does require a certain skill in being able to deal with it and handle it. In the old days, it was only the print media which could write what it wanted and there was nobody to question it but today they can't say a catch has been dropped, for the viewer can see if it has been dropped or indeed if it was a catch at all or the ball had gone off the pads. A player who wasn't liked could have the worst possible things written about his performance, even if it was not correct and there was nothing that could be done about it.

Sourav Ganguly can handle the media all right and he may not tap Ravi Shastri for tips, nor does he need Tiger Pataudi's recipe for a good press, a bottle of Indian whisky.