Samir Chopra December 11, 2008

Anyone can coach

I questioned the value of the national cricket coach

Sometime ago on Different Strokes, I questioned the value of the national cricket coach. I accused them of being redundant in international context. Now, to make my point, here comes Mickey Arthur, with his ten tips for succeeding in the subcontinent.

"Deal with pressure", "adjust to the game's pace", "make the first innings count", all sound like prize contenders for, as I like to call them, Outstanding Missives from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious.

"Stay leg-side of the ball" sounds interestingly different but it's also interestingly useless, in that it is so over-theorised that I have a hard time believing any cricketer would take it seriously. But bully for Mickey's wards if they did so. So let us give him this one.

Then there is "plan against spin". Imagine that, going to India, and you need to be told to "plan against spin". Brilliant, innit?

"Handle reverse swing" comes next. Yes, indeed, one must handle reverse swing, given that most potent quick bowling attacks in the world employ it. Very good, coach, very good. Now, what next? "Use your bouncer". Not the big man outside the pub but the short-pitched delivery. Do quicks really need to be told this is a good strategy to stop batsmen getting onto the front foot? And to be told to "bowl reverse swing"? Which quick out there in the world doesn't think that that is a worthwhile addition to his armory?

But more interesting is "Role definition: You have to be able to take 20 wickets, so you need to allow certain bowlers freedom to attack" This is truly devious stuff. And of course, teams touring India must "play with field settings". Like most captains do, sometimes to the detriment of over-rates.

Perhaps I'm being too catty but I think this is very silly stuff, and I remain unconvinced. South Africa's drawn series result the last time they were in India came about largely because of a spectacular collapse they induced in the Indian batting line-up on the first day of the second test. Perhaps it was because they played with field settings and allowed certain bowlers the freedom to attack. But then they lost on a turner, a result which Arthur described as a "hijacking". Perhaps they forgot to plan against spin.

In any case, I'm going to announce my ten tips for success in Australia. If any team likes these, could I please be appointed coach? Come to think of it, isn't South Africa touring Australia? Why won't they have me instead?

1. Watch out for the Australian media.

2. Be prepared for the Australian captain to sledge you in the press.

3. Adjust to the extra bounce at the WACA.

4. Hold your catches (the Australians will hold theirs).

5. Keep your cool when getting sledged.

6. Don't go on the defensive too quickly.

7. Don't put your emotionally fragile players on the boundaries.

8. Wear sunscreen at all times.

9. Maintain line and length; the Australians' aggressive batting could play into your hands.

10. Make the fourth-innings count.

Or, you could just take Mickey's list, change "plan against spin" to "plan against pace", and change "stay leg-side of the ball" to "play horizontal bat shots" and you would have a perfectly good list for Australia.

Nice work if you can get it.

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