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Saturday, June 10, 2017

What skills would a Coach impart to top performers !?!?

Every game has its charm ~ Ivan Lendl, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble  would look madly methodical; you always have Viv Richards, Sehwag, John Mcenroe  and more  - the debate would live : is it natural talent or right technique shaped by coaching ! – which will succeed ?

In olden days, only those who struggled in the classroom would go for private tuitions; for others the class room deliverance was quite enough to succeed.  With years, the concept changed – now a days, coaching is seen as an effective tool for optimizing efficiency.  One need to be a good coach – need not have the best of the abilities in the field and need not have succeeded at the top is another theory.

A few days after Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit a four off the last ball to give Rising Pune Supergiant victory over  Sunrisers Hyderabad in  IPL 2017  game, Tom Moody was asked if Moises Henriques, who had conceded just four in his solitary over, should have bowled the 20th instead of Siddarth Kaul. Moody, the Hyderabad coach, said Henriques didn’t usually bowl at the death in Twenty20s, but “should have bowled another over in the middle of the innings because he is experienced.” Moody, though, backed the judgment of David Warner, the captain.  How much should a coach intervene and can he do that on the field is also a raging Q ! -  though not legitimized,  Bob Woolmer, South Africa’s coach, tried it against India in the 1999 World Cup in England. Hansie Cronje, the captain, and Allan Donald, the team’s pace spearhead, had devices attached to their ears as Woolmer passed on his observations during the course of play.

Away, It took a season under Jose Mourinho to turn Ander Herrera into the player Manchester United thought they were getting. The Spanish midfielder’s man of the match award in the Europa League final was symbolic - not just for his peerless performance in Stockholm, but his rise under a famously demanding manager. It was a measure of how Mourinho has transformed Herrera after inheriting a player so inhibited by Louis van Gaal he practically needed to be reprogrammed when the new man took charge. The 27-year-old was virtually broken down and reconstructed as Mourinho looked for a man capable of becoming the heartbeat of his midfield.  Even as the Press gave so much of credit to Mourinho, was it the talent of the player or the shaping by the coach and can such transformation happen at that level ?

Champions Trophy 2017 starts today – now a days, Cricket is played more out of the field much before the events start happening.  A great reliance is placed on the Coach and other support staff and each team have big complement of them,  For 2011 WC, Indian Foreign Coach, was supported by Mental conditioning coach, Fitness trainer, Physio, Masseur, Performance analyst, Bowling and fielding coaches and more .. .. ..

Aussies take the cake for having have brazenly adopted their ‘winning is the only thing’ approach – have tried to tame opponents by bullying them, sledging them and whatever is possible .. ..  a few years back, when Ponting resigned, their new ir coach wanted them to submit a presentation, some players did not and .. .. ..  Often, it is stated that a good Manager is who gets out the best of his team and not the one who openly quarrels with them…….  Mickey  Arthur is known to be a disciplinarian …. This is no school either…  Coaching isn’t just about being the school master and waving the cane around.  Coaching is more about relation management and team building we are told.  In a brazen move that hit the headlines -  Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja were  axed for failing to give a presentation on how they could improve following their embarrassing innings defeat in the second Test.  It was a 3 point PPT failure that did them out !

BCCI has dallied with foreign coaches with different results….. first it was the New Zealand left hander John Wright in 2000 and India enjoyed a remarkable winning percentage of over 40 in Test cricket, winning 21 out of 52.  In 2012,  Joe Dawes – Who ?  and he replaced  Eric Simons.  A land which had Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Madanlal, Karsan Ghavri or bowlers like Raju Kulkarni, Thirumalai Ananthanpillai Sekhar, Venkatesh Prasad, Balwinder Singh Sandhu,Ajit Agarkar,  Atul Wassan, Sanjeev Sharma, Yograj Singh or lesser known players like Rajinder Singh Ghai, Salil Ankola, Vivek Razdan, Debashish Mohanty and more -  none fit enough !!  Dawes, played 76 first-class matches for Queensland between 1997 and 2005, often having to wait his turn behind Australia bowlers Michael Kasprowicz and Andy Bichel. His career was cut short by a knee injury following which he became involved in coaching.  So somebody who never bowled at an International level  was our new bowling coach.

Moving away from Cricket, after Michael Nobbs' removal as head coach of the Indian hockey team, the clamour for a 'desi' coach grew and former players advocated the need of an Indian coach who would understand the 'Indian mindset'.  There have been times when Coaches try a new ball game and players instead of improving get hurt…. Cricketers have twisted their foot playing football a day before the match….Roelant Oltmans, on his part rode to controversy with his plan to teach English language.

                     With all this in the background, one thought, Anil Kumble would fit the bill with his communication skills, computer knowledge, photographic skills besides knowing the players well.  Things appeared good ! as India was winning at home – and when win comes, everything gets forgotten.  Now cracks are surfacing !!

ESPNCricinfo quotes a BCCI official: “Kumble was pushing hard. The bulk of them [injuries] are non-cricketing injuries. One of the players was stressed out. So the team is not a happy lot.” Reports have further surfaced that Kumble has been running the team like a ‘headmaster’. Greg Chappell? Does the name ring a bell?  BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) now consists of three men knowledgeable – Sourav  Ganguly,  Sachin Tendulkar and VVS  Laxman who  overlooked the goods achieved under Ravi Shastri and appointed Kumble for the job. With Dravid handling the role of mentoring the younger national prospects, Kumble in charge of the senior side, and men of Ganguly, Tendulkar and Laxman’s stature in the CAC, Indian cricket seemed in safe hands with unification of ‘Fab Five’.

Now there are reports that  BCCI is back to coach hunting. Kumble’s contract expires after the Champions Trophy. An extension should have been mere formality. Successful coaches have historically had extensions of contracts, but the unsuspecting CoA are entrusted again with the job of selecting the suitable candidate for coaching India.   We have seen many a times, Kumble entering details on a laptop and taking good photographs of the winning emotions ~ where did he fail, whether he did – or what did he did to turn the fortunes of the Indian team ? – what exactly is the role of a coach for performers at that level ??

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
1st June 2017.


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