Samir Chopra August 20, 2008

Staged coach

Results show no overall positive or negative bump depending on the coach
14

Most cricket fans have, at some point, while listening to the ponderous pronouncements of an 'expert' television commentator, said words that approximate the following: "No sh*t, Sherlock!" In short, we are used to being deluged with Missives from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious.

We are told early wickets are important, that while chasing a victory target, the openers should provide a good start, and that line and length is key (feel to supply your own personal favourite). My intention in reminding us of these tautological dictums is not to make merry at the expense of an oft-vilified demographic, The Expert Commentator, but to try and segue into a brief questioning of the latest addition to international cricket's evolving cast of characters: the national coach. For, like some cricketers, I often wonder at what precisely the role of the coach is. To slip into corporate mumbo-jumbo for a second, what is the 'value-addedness' of this entity, what is its core competency?

Does the coach supervise the nets? Does he run catching drills? Does he map out tactics and field placings? Devise team selections, batting orders and bowling combinations? Perhaps the answer to this set of questions is "Yes". But in each case, the tasks described are better done (and have been for ages) by the captain in co-operation with other members of the team, with the captain picking and choosing his partners on the basis of assessed competency at the task. The captain and the rest of the team are the ones executing these tactics and strategies; they are the ones whose professional success is inextricably linked with the team's performance.

In cricket, it is the captain who is given unique responsibility for the operation of the game on the ground. Given this, it is appropriate that the captain have corresponding authority off the field in order to run his campaigns efficiently. To introduce a coach into this picture is to unnecessarily muddy the waters of authority, to introduce incoherence into a straightforward situation (perhaps with embarrassing psychobabble about motivational strategies) and to run the risk of players constantly being subjected to a barrage of obvious throw-away lines ("I think we need to restrict the lead tomorrow and hold all our catches"). The world of professional cricket provides all the wisdom needed for any cricketer, available to anyone who bothers to watch and listen to his contemporaries, whether friend or foe. If a cricketer isn't picking up tips from this grapevine, he isn't a very good listener or learner, and no coach can help him.

The best you can hope for is that the sheer cricketing talent of the team will render the coach harmless (c.f. John Buchanan and the Australian team). In the worst case scenario, there is confusion about lines of authority and the team falls apart (c.f. Greg Chappell and the Indian team). And as has been noticed in Pakistan, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh, and South Africa, the coach cannot make up for the cricketing deficiencies of 'his' team. The experience of those teams is roughly the same all over the world: in terms of positions on the cricketing ladder, the teams are where one would expect them to be given the quality of their players, captains, and cricket administrations. Their results show no overall positive or negative bump depending on the coach. In short, the coach is irrelevant to the success of the cricket team. There have been some success stories that may be linked to some coaches (e.g., Wright, Woolmer, Fletcher) but in each case it seems to me there are perfectly good alternative explanations.

Most irritatingly, the national coach seeks to turn the Test captain, a singular figure in international sport, into a glorified quarterback. Here, here is the playbook, printed off from my laptop; now, run out on the field and execute it. The introduction of the coach into the international cricketing setup has been the introduction of the second sword into the scabbard: pointless and counterproductive.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vipul Gupta on August 21, 2008, 5:33 GMT

    contd.. Captain by the Coach, the Bowling Coach the fielding coach etc. and together they are able to plan out every possible situation beforehand. Nobody can deny the role Cooley played in not only the 2005 Ashes triumph but also the prior success the English bowlers tasted between 2003-2005. In fact the stats of all the bowlers improved during his reign. Great players like McGrath and Warne will always do well simply because they are great. It is only when the lesser players start doing well that the performance of the coach, in the case of Buchanan can be appreciated which happened when fringe players like Tait and Hogg performed superbly in the 2007 WC. The job of the Coach and the backroom staff is to help the players perform at their peak on the field. And that’s the reason why any credit for success and failure on the field has to be shared collectively by all parties.

  • Brendanvio on August 21, 2008, 5:31 GMT

    I agree and disagree with some aspects of this article. I will point out that some coaches have encouraged a greater deal of professionalism in their players (Simpson, Moody et al) by promoting fielding drills and better fitness that allowed them to stay on top of their games. A coach should never interfere with tactics, which I thought Duncan Fletcher was guilty of,(Vaughan was a fine captain in his own right) and perhaps John Buchannan (Too much mumbo-jumbo with Buck). It is the players that do the job in the end, and the captain who is solely responsible for on-field decisions.

  • Vipul Gupta on August 21, 2008, 5:31 GMT

    I must say that I really do not agree with Mr Chopra’s assessment for a coach. Yeah he is person who can be a support system for “outside field matters” and I do not have any issues if he is known as a side player. In today’s age with the constant traveling the Captain can certainly do with some help in arranging fielding drills, training sessions etc. The reason the Aussie side is great is that they pay attention to the minutest of details. It can’t be a fluke that Clarke , Symmo or Punter hardly miss whenever they have a shy at the stumps? Match situations are simulated in fielding drills. When McGrath bowls a particular length and line to Sachin they know which shot he will play and that’s why Clarke is always in a position to anticipate and throw down the stumps from any angle simply because he has practiced it a 1000 times. And these inputs are given to the contd .....

  • Swaminath on August 21, 2008, 4:48 GMT

    What the coach brings to the table comes into picture here. if the coach is knowledgable about the game and can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each player in the team, and has the requisite knowledge to correct those weknesses, I am all for having a coach. I believe Bob Simpson made the current Australian team what they are now with his cricketing knowledge. Buchanan gives the impression of being just what Shane Warne called him some time back. A silly goose. Full of hot air. As a coach, keep things simple. Stick to the basics, and advice the players when they deviate from the basics. Every team would be happy to have a coach who does this, I guess. never mind about conducting drills, never mind about team meetings and strategies. Leave that to the captain. Samir, I guess this is what you mean when you say the coach makes the captain appear like a quarterback.

  • Swaminath on August 21, 2008, 4:48 GMT

    What the coach brings to the table comes into picture here. if the coach is knowledgable about the game and can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each player in the team, and has the requisite knowledge to correct those weknesses, I am all for having a coach. I believe Bob Simpson made the current Australian team what they are now with his cricketing knowledge. Buchanan gives the impression of being just what Shane Warne called him some time back. A silly goose. Full of hot air. As a coach, keep things simple. Stick to the basics, and advice the players when they deviate from the basics. Every team would be happy to have a coach who does this, I guess. never mind about conducting drills, never mind about team meetings and strategies. Leave that to the captain. Samir, I guess this is what you mean when you say the coach makes the captain appear like a quaterback.

  • Hari on August 21, 2008, 3:34 GMT

    The West Indians ruled the roost for almost 20 years, who was their coach? Who coached Pakistan to victory in '92? Was Dav Whatmore's contribution more than Arjuna's in '96? Ditto with the last three world cup also. If you are saying that Australia was the number one team because of professionalism imparted by Simpson, you are kidding yourself. As good a coach as Simpson may be and however big his role in '87 truimph may be it was Glen McGrath and Shane Warne who are the chief architects in Australia's world dominance. If professionalism and work ethic was the criteria then South Africa is as good as Australia, they also had a very good coach in Bob Woolmer. Why havent they beaten Australia in a test match series? The simple answer is the players werent good enough. So I am again reiterating my point, the coach however good he may be at best can be a side player, and may be he can ease the captain's burden after a loss by going to the press conference himself, nothing more.

  • Sharath on August 20, 2008, 22:18 GMT

    I liked the way Fletcher approached his job. He saw himself as a consultant. By the looks of it, he didn't even speak unless spoken to at team meetings. He used to have a one-on-one with Vaughan before the meeting, and then let him take over. And he always made sure that in the eyes of the players at least, he and Vaughan were reading from the same script.

    Now of course nobody is suggesting a good coach can turn a bad team into a good one, but there is no doubt they make teams better than they are. At the very least, they take the pressure off the captain and allow him to focus more on his own game, which in itself is a sizeable contribution.

    On the other hand, if a coach assumes authority and if his ideas are openly seen to be conflicting with those of his captain, it leads to confusion galore, and that can only be detrimental.

    Having no one in charge is better than not knowing who is in charge.

  • Anjo on August 20, 2008, 19:44 GMT

    Someone should do a study on the correlation of naivety and reading comprehension ability. Nobody said England won only because of Cooley, just that he played a vital role in coaching their bowling attack. Why do you think Cooley was snapped up by Australia soon after? His coaching made a significant difference in Australia's bowling tactics in the 2007 World Cup, particularly with the way Nathan Bracken was employed. Anyone who has read the autobiographies of players that won the '87 world cup will know how much the team changed as a unit after the Simpson-Border partnership. That level of professionalism has never left Australian cricket. I expect someone to understand the difference between a coach winning, players winning and a team winning, but it wouldn't surprise me if that was also conveniently forgotten along with the roles of Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh during the CB Series, T20 World Cup and England Test series.

  • tgevans on August 20, 2008, 17:21 GMT

    In cricket, the captain is still the most important person, but coaches have an important part to play at the strategic level. Players at the international level don't need to be told to "play the ball on its merits" or to "bowl in the right areas". But they do need a well-managed support staff, well-organized drills and practices, thorough oppo research, and strong psychological support. As in all things, good coaches are valuable, bad coaches are harmful, and mediocre coaches are irrelevant.

  • Charindra on August 20, 2008, 17:02 GMT

    Not sure I agree with this article. How can anyone say so conclusively that a coach is "pointless and counterproductive", especially a writer who hasn't even got close to playing at the highest level?? The designation doesn't matter (you can call him babysitter for all I care) but a team certainly needs an outsider to guide it, come up with strategies, train youngsters, and keep things on an even keel. Some good examples are Whatmore and Moody for SL, Wright for India, Fletcher for Eng (pre 2006) etc. But of course as witch hunt says, the chemistry and the understanding between the captain and the "coach" is of paramount importance, without which the whole thing would just fall apart.

  • Vipul Gupta on August 21, 2008, 5:33 GMT

    contd.. Captain by the Coach, the Bowling Coach the fielding coach etc. and together they are able to plan out every possible situation beforehand. Nobody can deny the role Cooley played in not only the 2005 Ashes triumph but also the prior success the English bowlers tasted between 2003-2005. In fact the stats of all the bowlers improved during his reign. Great players like McGrath and Warne will always do well simply because they are great. It is only when the lesser players start doing well that the performance of the coach, in the case of Buchanan can be appreciated which happened when fringe players like Tait and Hogg performed superbly in the 2007 WC. The job of the Coach and the backroom staff is to help the players perform at their peak on the field. And that’s the reason why any credit for success and failure on the field has to be shared collectively by all parties.

  • Brendanvio on August 21, 2008, 5:31 GMT

    I agree and disagree with some aspects of this article. I will point out that some coaches have encouraged a greater deal of professionalism in their players (Simpson, Moody et al) by promoting fielding drills and better fitness that allowed them to stay on top of their games. A coach should never interfere with tactics, which I thought Duncan Fletcher was guilty of,(Vaughan was a fine captain in his own right) and perhaps John Buchannan (Too much mumbo-jumbo with Buck). It is the players that do the job in the end, and the captain who is solely responsible for on-field decisions.

  • Vipul Gupta on August 21, 2008, 5:31 GMT

    I must say that I really do not agree with Mr Chopra’s assessment for a coach. Yeah he is person who can be a support system for “outside field matters” and I do not have any issues if he is known as a side player. In today’s age with the constant traveling the Captain can certainly do with some help in arranging fielding drills, training sessions etc. The reason the Aussie side is great is that they pay attention to the minutest of details. It can’t be a fluke that Clarke , Symmo or Punter hardly miss whenever they have a shy at the stumps? Match situations are simulated in fielding drills. When McGrath bowls a particular length and line to Sachin they know which shot he will play and that’s why Clarke is always in a position to anticipate and throw down the stumps from any angle simply because he has practiced it a 1000 times. And these inputs are given to the contd .....

  • Swaminath on August 21, 2008, 4:48 GMT

    What the coach brings to the table comes into picture here. if the coach is knowledgable about the game and can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each player in the team, and has the requisite knowledge to correct those weknesses, I am all for having a coach. I believe Bob Simpson made the current Australian team what they are now with his cricketing knowledge. Buchanan gives the impression of being just what Shane Warne called him some time back. A silly goose. Full of hot air. As a coach, keep things simple. Stick to the basics, and advice the players when they deviate from the basics. Every team would be happy to have a coach who does this, I guess. never mind about conducting drills, never mind about team meetings and strategies. Leave that to the captain. Samir, I guess this is what you mean when you say the coach makes the captain appear like a quarterback.

  • Swaminath on August 21, 2008, 4:48 GMT

    What the coach brings to the table comes into picture here. if the coach is knowledgable about the game and can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each player in the team, and has the requisite knowledge to correct those weknesses, I am all for having a coach. I believe Bob Simpson made the current Australian team what they are now with his cricketing knowledge. Buchanan gives the impression of being just what Shane Warne called him some time back. A silly goose. Full of hot air. As a coach, keep things simple. Stick to the basics, and advice the players when they deviate from the basics. Every team would be happy to have a coach who does this, I guess. never mind about conducting drills, never mind about team meetings and strategies. Leave that to the captain. Samir, I guess this is what you mean when you say the coach makes the captain appear like a quaterback.

  • Hari on August 21, 2008, 3:34 GMT

    The West Indians ruled the roost for almost 20 years, who was their coach? Who coached Pakistan to victory in '92? Was Dav Whatmore's contribution more than Arjuna's in '96? Ditto with the last three world cup also. If you are saying that Australia was the number one team because of professionalism imparted by Simpson, you are kidding yourself. As good a coach as Simpson may be and however big his role in '87 truimph may be it was Glen McGrath and Shane Warne who are the chief architects in Australia's world dominance. If professionalism and work ethic was the criteria then South Africa is as good as Australia, they also had a very good coach in Bob Woolmer. Why havent they beaten Australia in a test match series? The simple answer is the players werent good enough. So I am again reiterating my point, the coach however good he may be at best can be a side player, and may be he can ease the captain's burden after a loss by going to the press conference himself, nothing more.

  • Sharath on August 20, 2008, 22:18 GMT

    I liked the way Fletcher approached his job. He saw himself as a consultant. By the looks of it, he didn't even speak unless spoken to at team meetings. He used to have a one-on-one with Vaughan before the meeting, and then let him take over. And he always made sure that in the eyes of the players at least, he and Vaughan were reading from the same script.

    Now of course nobody is suggesting a good coach can turn a bad team into a good one, but there is no doubt they make teams better than they are. At the very least, they take the pressure off the captain and allow him to focus more on his own game, which in itself is a sizeable contribution.

    On the other hand, if a coach assumes authority and if his ideas are openly seen to be conflicting with those of his captain, it leads to confusion galore, and that can only be detrimental.

    Having no one in charge is better than not knowing who is in charge.

  • Anjo on August 20, 2008, 19:44 GMT

    Someone should do a study on the correlation of naivety and reading comprehension ability. Nobody said England won only because of Cooley, just that he played a vital role in coaching their bowling attack. Why do you think Cooley was snapped up by Australia soon after? His coaching made a significant difference in Australia's bowling tactics in the 2007 World Cup, particularly with the way Nathan Bracken was employed. Anyone who has read the autobiographies of players that won the '87 world cup will know how much the team changed as a unit after the Simpson-Border partnership. That level of professionalism has never left Australian cricket. I expect someone to understand the difference between a coach winning, players winning and a team winning, but it wouldn't surprise me if that was also conveniently forgotten along with the roles of Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh during the CB Series, T20 World Cup and England Test series.

  • tgevans on August 20, 2008, 17:21 GMT

    In cricket, the captain is still the most important person, but coaches have an important part to play at the strategic level. Players at the international level don't need to be told to "play the ball on its merits" or to "bowl in the right areas". But they do need a well-managed support staff, well-organized drills and practices, thorough oppo research, and strong psychological support. As in all things, good coaches are valuable, bad coaches are harmful, and mediocre coaches are irrelevant.

  • Charindra on August 20, 2008, 17:02 GMT

    Not sure I agree with this article. How can anyone say so conclusively that a coach is "pointless and counterproductive", especially a writer who hasn't even got close to playing at the highest level?? The designation doesn't matter (you can call him babysitter for all I care) but a team certainly needs an outsider to guide it, come up with strategies, train youngsters, and keep things on an even keel. Some good examples are Whatmore and Moody for SL, Wright for India, Fletcher for Eng (pre 2006) etc. But of course as witch hunt says, the chemistry and the understanding between the captain and the "coach" is of paramount importance, without which the whole thing would just fall apart.

  • Hari on August 20, 2008, 16:26 GMT

    When India won the CB Series and the 20-20 World Cup and the England Test series who was the coach? Well I dont remember it correctly. But I do remember who was the coach when India was kicked out of the cricket world cup. This coaching stuff is totally exageratted just like the pitch report and the usual commentator cliches. England won because of Troy Cooley? I thought it was because Andrew Flintoff,Harmison, Jones and Hoggard bowled well and KP, Vaughan, Flintoff batted well also. Australia didnt become world leaders because of Bob Simpson, they did so because they had Glen McGrath and Shane Warne. If they didnt have even any one of the two, they wouldnt have been at the top for so long, no matter who coached the. Yes credit should be given to Border and Simpson for the 87' world cup but then also it was the players who won it and not the coach. So my point is that the coach can at best be a side-role player.

  • Anjo on August 20, 2008, 13:47 GMT

    Supratik, while you might downplay Fletcher's role you cannot deny that the bowling coach, Troy Cooley, played an enormous role. If I'm not wrong, Cooley contacted a famous sports aerodynamic specialist at NASA prior to the series after coming across a few of his scientific articles on swing bowling, something I seriously doubt Vaughan or any other playing cricketer would have come across or bothered pursuing. While people like Kapil Dev scorned at the use of "rocket science" in cricket, Cooley was able to train the English bowlers on several relatively unknown subtleties of swing bowling, based purely on science, which had a devastating impact on the series. Unless you have a really proactive captain with unlimited time on his hands to pursue every possible angle/line, I'm quite sure coaches, particularly specialist coaches, will provide a valuable service. Yes at the end of the day its the players, but players armed with the best techniques of the day are usually more effective.

  • Supratik on August 20, 2008, 12:41 GMT

    Never mind any number of 'witch hunts' I am absolutely with you on this Sameer. If the definition was stretched a bit too far by the one and only Ian Chappell then the coach can at best be a support system 'OUTSIDE' the field matters, like post match conferences, pre-training schedules, who's injured and who's not and all that blah-blah. The coach can do more harm (ala Chappell) or at best can be a soothing balm (ala Simmo,Woolmer). The most ridiculous of them is a Fletcher dictating the captain's choice, say a Giles over a Panesar, which is poppy-cock. If someone tells you that England won the Ashes in 2005 due to "master" strategies of Fletcher then life is a dream and you will wake up to see a nightmare (circa 2006-7)!!! Good post, importantly pertinent, in today's hyped up times.

  • Witch Hunt on August 20, 2008, 6:48 GMT

    What a pile of bollocks, Australia would never have made their return to the top as quickly without the partnership (that's the key here) between Simpson & Border, NZ would still be a bickering rabble if Steve Rixon and Fleming hadn't combined and I wonder how Sri Lanka feel about the work done by Tom Moody? A good coach works with the captain so that he doesn't burn energy organising training or worrying about the techniques of his players, the coach also gives a point of contact that the captain can use to help hone tactics as the coaches view is generally experienced and removed from the emotion of the field.

    And another thing, if the positions on the table roughly reflect where they 'should' be, why do we even bother with international cricket at all? An article like this one is just like the closing statement "pointless and counterproductive".

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  • Witch Hunt on August 20, 2008, 6:48 GMT

    What a pile of bollocks, Australia would never have made their return to the top as quickly without the partnership (that's the key here) between Simpson & Border, NZ would still be a bickering rabble if Steve Rixon and Fleming hadn't combined and I wonder how Sri Lanka feel about the work done by Tom Moody? A good coach works with the captain so that he doesn't burn energy organising training or worrying about the techniques of his players, the coach also gives a point of contact that the captain can use to help hone tactics as the coaches view is generally experienced and removed from the emotion of the field.

    And another thing, if the positions on the table roughly reflect where they 'should' be, why do we even bother with international cricket at all? An article like this one is just like the closing statement "pointless and counterproductive".

  • Supratik on August 20, 2008, 12:41 GMT

    Never mind any number of 'witch hunts' I am absolutely with you on this Sameer. If the definition was stretched a bit too far by the one and only Ian Chappell then the coach can at best be a support system 'OUTSIDE' the field matters, like post match conferences, pre-training schedules, who's injured and who's not and all that blah-blah. The coach can do more harm (ala Chappell) or at best can be a soothing balm (ala Simmo,Woolmer). The most ridiculous of them is a Fletcher dictating the captain's choice, say a Giles over a Panesar, which is poppy-cock. If someone tells you that England won the Ashes in 2005 due to "master" strategies of Fletcher then life is a dream and you will wake up to see a nightmare (circa 2006-7)!!! Good post, importantly pertinent, in today's hyped up times.

  • Anjo on August 20, 2008, 13:47 GMT

    Supratik, while you might downplay Fletcher's role you cannot deny that the bowling coach, Troy Cooley, played an enormous role. If I'm not wrong, Cooley contacted a famous sports aerodynamic specialist at NASA prior to the series after coming across a few of his scientific articles on swing bowling, something I seriously doubt Vaughan or any other playing cricketer would have come across or bothered pursuing. While people like Kapil Dev scorned at the use of "rocket science" in cricket, Cooley was able to train the English bowlers on several relatively unknown subtleties of swing bowling, based purely on science, which had a devastating impact on the series. Unless you have a really proactive captain with unlimited time on his hands to pursue every possible angle/line, I'm quite sure coaches, particularly specialist coaches, will provide a valuable service. Yes at the end of the day its the players, but players armed with the best techniques of the day are usually more effective.

  • Hari on August 20, 2008, 16:26 GMT

    When India won the CB Series and the 20-20 World Cup and the England Test series who was the coach? Well I dont remember it correctly. But I do remember who was the coach when India was kicked out of the cricket world cup. This coaching stuff is totally exageratted just like the pitch report and the usual commentator cliches. England won because of Troy Cooley? I thought it was because Andrew Flintoff,Harmison, Jones and Hoggard bowled well and KP, Vaughan, Flintoff batted well also. Australia didnt become world leaders because of Bob Simpson, they did so because they had Glen McGrath and Shane Warne. If they didnt have even any one of the two, they wouldnt have been at the top for so long, no matter who coached the. Yes credit should be given to Border and Simpson for the 87' world cup but then also it was the players who won it and not the coach. So my point is that the coach can at best be a side-role player.

  • Charindra on August 20, 2008, 17:02 GMT

    Not sure I agree with this article. How can anyone say so conclusively that a coach is "pointless and counterproductive", especially a writer who hasn't even got close to playing at the highest level?? The designation doesn't matter (you can call him babysitter for all I care) but a team certainly needs an outsider to guide it, come up with strategies, train youngsters, and keep things on an even keel. Some good examples are Whatmore and Moody for SL, Wright for India, Fletcher for Eng (pre 2006) etc. But of course as witch hunt says, the chemistry and the understanding between the captain and the "coach" is of paramount importance, without which the whole thing would just fall apart.

  • tgevans on August 20, 2008, 17:21 GMT

    In cricket, the captain is still the most important person, but coaches have an important part to play at the strategic level. Players at the international level don't need to be told to "play the ball on its merits" or to "bowl in the right areas". But they do need a well-managed support staff, well-organized drills and practices, thorough oppo research, and strong psychological support. As in all things, good coaches are valuable, bad coaches are harmful, and mediocre coaches are irrelevant.

  • Anjo on August 20, 2008, 19:44 GMT

    Someone should do a study on the correlation of naivety and reading comprehension ability. Nobody said England won only because of Cooley, just that he played a vital role in coaching their bowling attack. Why do you think Cooley was snapped up by Australia soon after? His coaching made a significant difference in Australia's bowling tactics in the 2007 World Cup, particularly with the way Nathan Bracken was employed. Anyone who has read the autobiographies of players that won the '87 world cup will know how much the team changed as a unit after the Simpson-Border partnership. That level of professionalism has never left Australian cricket. I expect someone to understand the difference between a coach winning, players winning and a team winning, but it wouldn't surprise me if that was also conveniently forgotten along with the roles of Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh during the CB Series, T20 World Cup and England Test series.

  • Sharath on August 20, 2008, 22:18 GMT

    I liked the way Fletcher approached his job. He saw himself as a consultant. By the looks of it, he didn't even speak unless spoken to at team meetings. He used to have a one-on-one with Vaughan before the meeting, and then let him take over. And he always made sure that in the eyes of the players at least, he and Vaughan were reading from the same script.

    Now of course nobody is suggesting a good coach can turn a bad team into a good one, but there is no doubt they make teams better than they are. At the very least, they take the pressure off the captain and allow him to focus more on his own game, which in itself is a sizeable contribution.

    On the other hand, if a coach assumes authority and if his ideas are openly seen to be conflicting with those of his captain, it leads to confusion galore, and that can only be detrimental.

    Having no one in charge is better than not knowing who is in charge.

  • Hari on August 21, 2008, 3:34 GMT

    The West Indians ruled the roost for almost 20 years, who was their coach? Who coached Pakistan to victory in '92? Was Dav Whatmore's contribution more than Arjuna's in '96? Ditto with the last three world cup also. If you are saying that Australia was the number one team because of professionalism imparted by Simpson, you are kidding yourself. As good a coach as Simpson may be and however big his role in '87 truimph may be it was Glen McGrath and Shane Warne who are the chief architects in Australia's world dominance. If professionalism and work ethic was the criteria then South Africa is as good as Australia, they also had a very good coach in Bob Woolmer. Why havent they beaten Australia in a test match series? The simple answer is the players werent good enough. So I am again reiterating my point, the coach however good he may be at best can be a side player, and may be he can ease the captain's burden after a loss by going to the press conference himself, nothing more.

  • Swaminath on August 21, 2008, 4:48 GMT

    What the coach brings to the table comes into picture here. if the coach is knowledgable about the game and can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each player in the team, and has the requisite knowledge to correct those weknesses, I am all for having a coach. I believe Bob Simpson made the current Australian team what they are now with his cricketing knowledge. Buchanan gives the impression of being just what Shane Warne called him some time back. A silly goose. Full of hot air. As a coach, keep things simple. Stick to the basics, and advice the players when they deviate from the basics. Every team would be happy to have a coach who does this, I guess. never mind about conducting drills, never mind about team meetings and strategies. Leave that to the captain. Samir, I guess this is what you mean when you say the coach makes the captain appear like a quaterback.