Vantage point

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Next Coach

One of India's most loved-foreigners, John Wright has completed a stint as the cricket team's coach, and has left with his held high, having been with the team during more ups than downs.

As Wright rides away into the sunset, newspapers are rife with speculation about who will succeed him. Names like Dav Whatmore, Greg Chappell, Dean Jones etc are being thrown around. The BCCI will make its decision soon enough. However one wonders what parameters are being used to choose the coach.

A coach is one whose job is three fold. One part of his job is to devise the strategies for entire seasons, breaking them down into tours, and matches. Strategy, in this context means selection decision, batting lineups, and deciding on a general plan to attack the opposition. He also has to devise tactics, which can be match-to-match, session-to-session, and literally over to over. This would include bowling changes, field changes, shuffling the batting order, speeding up or slowing down the pace of the game, etc. In both these aspects, a coach works closely with the captain and the senior members of the team. The captain then implements these strategies and tactics on the field.

The third aspects of the role is more "technical" in the cricketing sense. A coach has to help the members of the time iron out the wrinkles in their game, like correcting someone's stance, bowling actions, grip, etc. He is also expected to keep their technique wrinkle-free by overseeing the net-sessions.

What made John Wright so good was that he excelled in all three aspects of the job. The Wright-Ganguly combination seemed to have their strategies and tactics in place most of the times, and he was also helpful to the cricketers.

I think a major factor behind Wright's success was his experience. He had worked as a coach at first class level before, coaching Kent, and his experience prepared him for the role of coach. He already had the coaching "software" ready in his mind, and all that he needed to do was change the inputs from Kent-County-cricket to India-Test-cricket.

It helped him get into the groove very early. And it is this experience that has made not just John Wright, but others like John Buchanan and Bob Woolmer so successful. It is quite natural, actually. If we expect our cricketers to first cut their teeth in first class cricket and then coach the national team, it is natural to expect the same from coaches.

Which is why I hope that the BCCI looks at experience as an important factor. Greg Chappell has decent experience coaching first class teams. If he is chosen, it will be interesting to see how an Aussie will work at masterminding the overthrow of the Australians from the top.