Indian cricket July 4, 2010

The importance of a good coach

What is the easiest way of dealing with an out-of-form player?

What is the easiest way of dealing with an out-of-form player? Drop him, send him back to play domestic cricket and wait for him to make amends before drafting him in again. Quite easy. Now, what would be the most difficult way of dealing with the same struggling cricketer? It would be to get to the root cause of the problem, help him rectify it and all this while putting an arm around his shoulder to boost his morale. Because technical glitches won't take too long to be rectified but shattered confidence might just take an eternity to be restored.

You really don't need a qualified person to find faults. It's ridiculously easy to say that X player is a suspect on short-pitched deliveries and Y player can't swing the ball any more. But it takes not only a qualified professional but also a really patient and understanding man to rectify these mistakes.

Poor form is seldom the spin-off of one thing or one aspect of the game going wrong. The starting point of the downfall may well be negligible but you get to know its effect only when it snowballs into a much bigger and easily identifiable problem i.e. poor show on the field. For example Sreesanth's poor bowling form often starts with his non-bowling arm coming down a tad early which eventually leads to his straying in line. The same can be said about Ishant, only that his wrist is often the culprit.

Gauti also had this perennial problem of falling over and hence was susceptible to sharp in-coming deliveries. Gary made those minor, but necessary, adjustments in his stance and head position and the rest is history. It not only changed the fortunes of his career but of the Indian team too. And Gautam is never shy in giving Gary the due credit.

If Gautam's example spoke about the positive influence of a coach, here's the exact opposite of that. A bowler, from a respectable Ranji Trophy team, was struggling with the problem of over-stepping. So much so, that the poor guy was bowling every delivery from at least six-eight inches over the popping crease. There were a plethora of coaches supervising his progress, or the lack of it. All that these wise men did was tell him that he was overstepping and that he needed to stop it. They had nothing more to offer to the player. Another bowler, this time on an India A tour, was bowling at least two-three no-balls in an over. To give devil its due, the coach did work with him in-between the matches, but made little headway. In fact he bowled a 15-ball over in the following game. Clearly whatever the coach did was not enough.

Now, a qualified coach would tell you that correcting the simple problem of overstepping is not rocket science and hence should have been rectified easily.

Practice doesn't make a man perfect, it just makes him permanent. So, god forbid if a player is practising the wrong technique, he's just making matters worse for himself. Bowlers who are found guilty of chucking are the prime example of practising the wrong skill. It's as much their fault as it is of their respective coaches.

The role of a coach is to first identify and then nip the problem in the bud. It's about time that our state teams, right from the age-group teams, hire professional coaches. After all BCCI is spending millions to conduct regular coaching courses at various levels and it'll serve its purpose only if the state associations make use of these coaches.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here