The crux of the matter is continuity

ALL the wild theories and speculation that the Cricket Board President was going to give the pink slip to John Wright and Andrew Leipus after the Test series against England has now been seen as just that speculation. The duo have been retained till the World Cup 2003 which means there is continuity in the way the coach and the physio-cum-trainer will be able to mould and shape the players for the hard tours and schedule that awaits them till the World Cup in South Africa about a year from now. The senior players are happy with both and the Board President has obviously taken their views into account before deciding on extending the term of the coach and the physio. The fact of the matter is that both are extremely nice guys and in spite of not being Indians care deeply not just about Indian cricket but other aspects of India as well.

There was one comment made recently by young Shiv Sundar Das that was a bit odd. The opener while conceding that he had to work on his backlift - which was coming down from an angle and was causing him to chop the ball on to his stumps or get inside edges - mentioned, if he was quoted correctly, that he was working at rectifying the fault and he was talking to Sachin Tendulkar about it. Now there's nothing like talking to the best batsman in the universe especially if he happens to be your teammate and to pick valuable tips from him, but shouldn't Das have been talking about getting help from John Wright, the coach? If a player is not going to go to the coach then does that mean there is no confidence in his ability to pick out faults and help to correct them? Perhaps not, for the youngster might be doing what is often needed in Indian cricket, butter up the seniors and make them feel good. After all a senior player carries more weight than a coach.

Still that comment apart, perhaps the time has come for the Indian cricket team to have specialist coaches for batting, bowling and fielding. It is no secret that some of the senior bowlers feel that they are getting little technical input from the coach and so they are carrying some technical faults into a game. But then come to think of it how much can one man do? A coach can't organise practice sessions, do individual guidance, think of fielding drills, dream up tactics to counter the opposition and be there to meet with the officials and the media. You need Superman for this and even he would find it hard to cope with all this. With the kind of media scrutiny there is today he would find it difficult to change from his Clark Kent clothes to the Superman togs without some camera catching him in the act.

It's humanly impossible to be able to do justice to all the three departments of the game and still think tactics and public and media presentation. It therefore makes more sense to have the load shared and lightened by having others to help the coach so that the team benefits overall and better results achieved. Since Wright has been a batsman during his years in international cricket, he can look after the batting aspect but can be helped by a bowling coach for that is a specialist's job not only physically but mentally too. Only a bowler can tell a bowler what needs to be corrected or altered at the highest level or how to bowl to certain batsmen on certain pitches, what sort of field to have,etc.

Of course, when the opposition has players like Tendulkar, Lara, Warne, Akram, McGrath all the coaching in the world will be of little avail for they are truly special talents and it is this extra that allows them to overcome any restrictions that the opposition might have for them and come out on top. So long as it is made clear that Wright is the chief coach and the other specialists will be working under him there should be no problem. As it is you find some of the Indian players approaching former players for tips and guidance which the former players are only too happy to give for the current players are like younger brothers to them.

The disadvantage with a situation like that is that there can sometimes be slightly conflicting advice which can lead to confusion rather than a solution to the problem. It does make more sense therefore to lighten Wright's load by giving him specialist coaches and keep him free to concentrate on the tactical aspects of the game and finding out the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.

With the World Cup just over a year away the sooner the Board acts in the matter the better it will be for the team. Some may well point to the fact that teams like Australia and Sri Lanka who are doing well have only one coach and the team that has maximum assistants to the coach, England, is not exactly the cock of the walk. That may well be so especially for the Sri Lankans who are the real tigers at home but this present Australian team can have an infant as a coach and still win. They failed in their real test when they lost to a resurgent India and what did the coach do then? Zilch.

It's like the old saying, a captain is only as good as his team is and this applies to the coach as well. He can draw up all the tactics, strategy and plan to the minutest detail but then once the players are on the field he is helpless especially if players don't do what he has advised them to do. John Wright is a good man, an honest man. He has better chances of making this Indian team tick if he is given some help and his workload lightened a bit. But most importantly he has to be given people who know their job and have the respect of the players as well and not just somebody whose Association has a vote in the Board.