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The role of a cricket coach is most underrated and also most overrated at the same time by the fans.
Recently I was watching a talk show where this topic was discussed extensively. The panel on the show were Brian Lara, Sir Vivian Richards and Ian Chappell.
All three of them legends of the game and they unanimously agreed that coaches are at the international level should basically be good man managers.
They also mentioned that the name “Coach” should be changed to something more relevant.
Even though that kind of simplifies the role, I think there is some merit to that line of thinking.
Sourav Ganguly recently on another TV show brought up an interesting point. India toured Ireland and England in 2007 without a coach.
The Indian team manager for that tour was Chandu Borde who was already 72 years old at that time. India went on to win both the series, first against South Africa in Ireland, followed by a Test series win in England.
The Indian team was experienced and contained players of the calibre of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Kumble and Zaheer Khan.
The team was full of legends and the role of the coach here would have been just to help to manage and help the captain with the strategy for the games.
Coaching in the international level does not exist. If a player needs coaching at the international level, he should not be there in the first place.
So would it be more appropriate to call them consultant or Advisor or Strategist instead? Probably yes, but again I am not sure what the position is called is that important compared to having a clear understanding of the role.
There are lots of fans who blame the coach for the poor performance of the batsmen or the bowlers but again the role of an international coach is not to teach players to bowl or bat.
That level of coaching is done at the grassroots level and should stay there. Once the player is representing his country, he is expected to do the basics right.
If he is not, the coaches at the preliminary levels need to questioned.
This does not mean that coaches are not needed at the international level. An international team can be full of legends but they need a good manager and also someone who helps the captain strategize ahead of the game.
A manager/coach is extremely important in a professional setup and cannot be completely ignored. You can never understate the role of coaches like Dave Whatmore, Bob Woolmer and Gary Kirsten and their contributions to their respective teams during their tenure.
Managing a team full of legends is very important in cricket and both the above coaches did that. Gary Kirsten helped India to a world cup win and achieve No.1 rankings in Test cricket. I don’t think Gary ever had to teach Sachin Tendulkar how to bat or Zaheer and Kumble how to bowl.
The success of these two coaches was to effectively manage the teams they were involved in and offer support to their respective team captains.
Dave Whatmore converted the Sri Lankan team into world beaters. Bob Woolmer managed a mercurial Pakistan team full of legends effectively which none of his successors were able to do.
All the above coaches I mentioned understood their role and their boundaries. A coach’s role should never interfere with that of the captain and a coach should never have a say in what the captain does on the field.
The cricket coach role is no different that coaches at any other sport. A player at the international level cannot be coached and that should not be in the national coach’s job description.