The expertise of foreign coaches

Coach John Wright has been having a good interaction with the players. But one bad show by the Indians and the coach's credentials are being questioned. — Pic. AFP-

"DO countries in the sub-continent need the expertise of foreign coaches?" is one frequently asked question and rarely do we get to hear or read any answer based on some rational thinking or anything other than jingoism.

"DO countries in the sub-continent need the expertise of foreign coaches?" is one frequently asked question and rarely do we get to hear or read any answer based on some rational thinking or anything other than jingoism. That the countries after local experimentations are forced to go for foreign coaches is a fact that cannot be denied. But one poor show by the Indian cricketers and John Wright's credentials are questioned. The disgruntled Javed Miandad does not miss an opportunity to have a dig at Bob Woolmer.

Who were the frontrunners for getting foreign coaches to manage international teams in the sub-continent? To the decision makers in the Sri Lanka Cricket Board goes the credit of using the expertise of experienced foreign coaches. Sir Garfield Sobers was the Sri Lanka coach in the early 80s, Frank Tyson was in the late 80s and then came Bruce Yardley who spotted Muttiah Muralitharan. Yardley was replaced by another Australian Dav Whatmore who was the coach when Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup.

During that period, Indian cricket was in a terrible mess. Coaches kept changing but there was no improvement in the standard of play of Indians. This possibly made Rajsingh Dungarpur convince the then President of the BCCI, A. C. Muthiah to acquire the services of a foreign coach. It was a move that was severely criticised by those who were failures when they themselves were in charge of the Indian team.

Why does India need a foreign coach when we are available, was their reaction. They did not seem to realise with sponsors pumping in big money in Indian cricket, that the team needed to perform consistently. Performing on the field while playing for the country and getting boys to perform as a coach were two totally different things. Talent and man-management skills are not always related. Many Indian coaches were great players. Yet when they were appointed coaches of the Indian team, they either misused the power or allowed players to run the show.

Consistency

Javed Miandad never misses a chance to have a dig at his successor, Bob Woolmer. -- Pic. AP-

Study the composition of the present Indian team and it becomes clear that the senior players have been playing for more than a decade. Apart from Sachin Tendulkar, the consistency aspect of other players was at a discount. What made the consistency aspect change from a discount to premium status is the most important question that the critics have to answer. What Javed Miandad could not do in 35 months, Bob Woolmer did in 35 days. You saw a different body language of the same Pakistani players who were lethargic in the Indo-Pak series. I had the privilege of working with Frank Tyson for three years in the BCA-Mafatlal scheme for bowlers. Though he landed at 2 a.m, Tyson was at the ground by 7 a.m and after talking to the boys for a few minutes he set off for a run with them. Tyson was 61 then. Before coming to Mumbai, he asked me to send him a dossier of the participants. The programme of 10 hours a day was sent to me. To us, it looked bit tough because of the extreme conditions of April-May in Mumbai. Not only did he not miss a minute but at no stage did he give the impression that the heat was unbearable. One can say the same thing about John Wright who is either on laptop sitting quietly in the room at the NCA working out details or getting things organised at the nets. `Analyse, plan and implement' is what John Wright believes in. A man who does not make exhibition of emotions in public. Never will we see a victory smile or sign from John Wright. Nor will we get to know how tough he is inside the four walls. To him every game is a new game and every win has to be forgotten in the next 24 hours.

Same approach

The difference between foreign coaches and our coaches is that foreign coaches go into minutest of details while preparing for the tournament. Once that is done, software gets into action. Whether it is John Wright or Bob Woolmer, the approach remains the same. It is the composition of the team that determines the strategy.

The reason our coaches failed to perform is that they were too concerned about the outcome without analysing the weaknesses of opponents and the conditions that would be encountered. `You enjoy, I enjoy and we all enjoy' was all that Indian journalists got to hear from the coach of the Indian team addressing players on one of the tours. Did we ever get the impression that the Indian coaches had planned the way we have been witnessing for the past couple of years?

The decision makers in the BCCI will not effect any changes in the team management without taking senior players into confidence. This clearly means the Indian team is happy with the way things are going on. Though Sir Richard Hadlee feels that John Wright is an honest trier and a man who believes in transparency, Wright prefers to lie low because utterances could invite controversy in India. He also has to deal with the national selectors who have their agenda.

Unless the aspiring Indian coaches, quite a few of whom have passed Level II and III coaching exams, observe and learn from the foreign coaches and use such methods in their assignments to produce results, the BCCI will continue to go for foreign coaches. Professionalism has accountability attached to it. It is no longer an all expenses paid without success job. Coaches are paid and expected to perform. If you have all failed to perform, don't ask why someone different was needed.