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Opinion

The captain should be able to sack the coach

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Roar Guru
24th February, 2022
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1707 Reads

The dismissal of Justin Langer has a lot of people in uproar regarding player power, especially the role Pat Cummins played in the former opener’s contract not being extended.

A lot of people have argued that players shouldn’t have the say on who the coach is. People often uses an analogy that the employee shouldn’t chose who their boss or manager is at their workplace.

However, this is a complete misunderstanding of the dynamics of cricket and that people are transferring principles applicable to other sports onto the game of cricket.

It is interesting to note that prior to 1986 Australia did not have any coaches at all. Prior to 1986 often there were managers who’d manage the logistics of the tour, but the captain took the role of the coach, especially in home matches.

It seems like in cricket, coaching is a relatively new concept and traditionally the captain was the boss.

Of course, with professionalism the development of coaching staff was inevitable. In the aim to improve the performance of the player it was inevitable that we have coaching and other support staff to help prepare the player for the game and have a head coach to manage all the support staff.

The role of the captain is hard enough and it makes sense to delegate, for example reviewing video footage of the opponents to develop tactics, running training sessions, ironing out technical flaws of the players, creating a working environment for the players, dealing with interpersonal conflicts and quite recently the coach has now become a selector and chooses who gets to play on the field.

Australia Coach Justin Langer celebrates with bowler Pat Cummins during day five of the 4th Ashes Test Match between England and Australia at Old Trafford on September 08, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Visionhaus)

(Photo by Getty Images)

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The coach has become more and more influential, even rivalling – although never surpassing – the captain.

Unless there is a change to the laws of the game, no matter how powerful the coach becomes they will never become as powerful as the captain, and this is very much unique to cricket.

This is because the coach has no formal powers within the game of cricket. If you go to the MCC laws of cricket, the coach is only mentioned once in the entire laws of cricket in the preamble and even then, it shows that the captain is the boss as they are the main person for ensuring fair play.

“The major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains, but extends to all players, match officials and, especially in junior cricket, teachers, coaches and parents,” it says.

Outside the preamble there is no recognition of coaches anywhere in the laws of cricket. However, captain is mentioned 169 times throughout the laws of cricket.

This shows that while in sports like football the manager or coach is the boss, in cricket the captain is the boss in terms of tactical decisions during the game.

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Even if we imagine the most theoretically powerful coach in cricket who micromanages and controls every tactical decision, who ends up devising all the tactics throughout the game including batting position, fielding position, if the decisions turn out to be mistakes and the team loses the match, who do you think will be blamed and held accountable for this?

The answer is the captain, because the laws of the game says it is the captain who makes the decisions.

During the Ashes, people criticised Joe Root’s defensive tactics and the timing of declaration by Pat Cummins even though it is quite possible the decisions were strongly influenced by the coach because the bucks stop with them.

I have never seen a captain being criticised for a tactical decision during the match and then the captain respond with, ‘Don’t blame me, I was just following the instructions of the coach’.

If this ever happens, the captain probably would be sacked due to lack of leadership and dereliction of responsibility because the captain is responsible for what happens on the pitch.

Joe Root of England talks to his players after the lunch breakduring day four of the First Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at The Gabba on December 11, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Therefore, it seems to me that the role of the coach is to help prepare and assist the captain in managing the team. The cricket coach is probably closer to the assistant manager in football rather than the head manager.

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When the captain and the coach have different ideas and different views on how to run the team and what tactics to deploy during the match, if the selectors believe that the captain is the person to lead the team then the coach must either adapt to whatever the captain wants or be sacked.

A coach losing the job after a change of captain should be treated no differently to a new football manager being appointed at a club and then firing their assistant manager and bringing their own support staff.

If Cricket Australia really believed that JL was the best coach for the job, then they shouldn’t have appointed Cummins as captain.

By choosing Cummins as the captain, they believe that he is the best person to make the tactical decisions on the day of the match. Therefore, they are obligated to supply the support staff that best empowers him to lead during any cricket match.

If Cummins doesn’t feel that Justin Langer is the best person to do that, then the former opener should be fired.

So is the dismissal of Langer an example of player power? The answer is yes, as it should be.

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