Mys­tery of the Miss­ing In­dian Coach

The Economic Times - - Sports - Dileep Premachan­dran

In­dian cricket has seen its fair share of de­ba­cles, but few as bad as those ex­pe­ri­enced in the 1990s. The mishaps on the field were of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by ut­ter clue­less­ness off it. As more and more teams em­braced pro­fes­sion­al­ism and mod­ern meth­ods of train­ing, In­dia re­mained stuck in a time warp. The nadir was per­haps reached on a dis­as­trous for­eign tour, when a for­mer stal­wart promised his wards women and money if they would only “play for the coun­try”. Vince Lom­bardi, he most cer­tainly was not. If people look back on the John Wright years with rose-tinted nos­tal­gia, it’s partly be­cause what went be­fore was so of­ten so ghastly. Things are very dif­fer­ent now. There are a bunch of com­mit­ted young In­dian coaches, each with the nec­es­sary cer­tifi­cates and, more im­por­tantly, the knowl­edge that comes only from hav­ing played at the high­est level. Yet, when it comes to the top coach­ing jobs, they may as well be in­vis­i­ble. No In­dian has coached the na­tional side—not count­ing care­tak­ers—since Wright took the job in Novem­ber 2000. It’s as though a younger gen­er­a­tion is pay­ing the price for the sins of its pre­de­ces­sors. “The coaches that were in­volved with the In­dian team in the 1990s didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Venkatesh Prasad, whose stint as the na­tional bowl­ing coach took in the World Twenty20 tri­umph (2007) and Test se­ries wins in Eng­land (2007) and New Zealand (2009). “They had played a lot of cricket for In­dia and were given the job be­cause of that. That’s not how it should work. You need a coach­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, to un­der­stand tech­ni­cal, tac­ti­cal, men­tal, phys­i­cal and life­style as­pects of the job. The coaches be­fore 2000, their style tended to be on the lines of: ‘This is how I did things, this is how it has to be done’.” Prasad coached Ut­tar Pradesh in the Ranji Tro­phy last sea­son, but has not been in­volved with the na­tional set-up since scape­goats were found for the poor show­ing at the World T20 and the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy in 2009. There was a time when In­dian coaches, like their Aus­tralian or South African coun­ter­parts, roamed the world for as­sign­ments. Mo­hin­der Amar­nath coached Bangladesh in the days be­fore they were granted Test sta­tus, and San­deep Patil was a huge fac­tor in Kenya’s surge to a World Cup semi­fi­nal in 2003. These days, though, there is only one In­dian coach in a top job, and he’s one of the least ex­pe­ri­enced. San­jay Ban­gar only re­tired at the end of the 2012-13 do­mes­tic sea­son. He now finds him­self in charge of Kings XI Pun­jab, a happy state of af­fairs that came about pri­mar­ily be­cause Dar­ren Lehmann, who turned wa­ter into wine with Aus­tralia, turned down the job. In his very first sea­son, Ban­gar, who had a stint in charge of In­dia A, has taken Pun­jab to the top. The se­cret, he says, has been keep­ing it sim­ple. He may lack the ex­pe­ri­ence of a Prasad or WV Ra­man, but Ban­gar is well aware of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions that his per­for­mance may have for his peers. “As far as I was con­cerned, I al­ways felt that sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity that the team’s for­tunes may have a bear­ing on op­por­tu­ni­ties open­ing up for In­dian coaches,” he said af­ter hav­ing taken Pun­jab to 11 wins in the league phase. “From that per­spec­tive, I’ve tried to give my best and tried to step up and take the re­spon­si­bil­ity.” When it comes to the IPL, it’s also be­yond dis­pute that some ap­point­ments are made just on the ba­sis of per­sonal equa­tions rather than skill. I have per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence in this re­gard. Dur­ing the fourth sea­son, I got a call from a friend in the south­ern hemi­sphere, ask­ing me if I wanted to be­come a fran­chise’s me­dia man­ager. He him­self had been of­fered an as­sis­tant coach­ing po­si­tion, pri­mar­ily based on the fact that he and the coach were golf­ing bud­dies. Some of these coaches, come to the IPL know­ing next to noth­ing about the young In­dian play­ers they’ll be men­tor­ing. When it was put to Ban­gar that he had an edge when it came to lo­cal knowl­edge, he was typ­i­cally mod­est. “All other teams also have In­dian coaches on their sup­port staff,” he said. “My ad­van­tage was that I was play­ing till just over 15 months ago. I have seen how most of these play­ers re­spond un­der match sit­u­a­tions. Maybe hav­ing played till very re­cently helped a bit.” The au­thor is is Edi­tor-in-chief at Wis­den In­dia

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