July 4, 2010

Indian cricket

The importance of a good coach

Aakash Chopra
Gautam Gambhir deflects the ball for a single, India v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 5th day, November 20, 2009
Gary Kirsten has helped Gautam Gambhir correct his problem of falling over  © AFP
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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

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Keywords: Technique

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Posted by Vijay on (July 8, 2010, 11:07 GMT)

Well Said Akash Bhai, Just to give an example of an unqualified coach I was representing my state in Col C.K Naidu trophy last year being a fast bowler I was struggling with the front foot no ball problem, after a bad game I was dropped out of the team and had to miss the next two games, during the time I was warming the bench I was hitting the nets hard and went upto the team coach quite a few times for the solution to my problem but he had no answer for me. Lucky for my I met Venky sir one day and he helped me to get rid of my problem otherwise I would've missed the entire season. Its just not the coaching the coaches also needs to learn to encourage the players rather then discouraging them by putting extra pressure by dropping them. BCCI should give it some serious thoughts of the coaching staff specially at U-19 & U-22 level because thats the bunch the states are going to get the fresh legs from for the Ranji Games.

Posted by Sanjeev on (July 4, 2010, 16:53 GMT)

Good observation akash but do states pay enough to these coaches and add batting ,bowling and fielding coach to every team

Posted by Vanchy on (July 4, 2010, 9:38 GMT)

Point well made. Is the BCCI listening. I don't think so. I play club cricket and regularly need someone outside of the team or someone within the team to look and correct my flaws. In my case i onviously don't have the time to correct it to the T as I play just for fun. Having stated that do I see a need for technical coaches for each speciality, undoubtedly. The problem as you stated in the later part of your article is that there doesnt seem to be a measurable output put against a coach not that he/she would solve the problem if the player is not receptive. Robin Singh and V Prasad were sacked as technical coaches in my opinion without me understanding why. Are they managing the talent from the inception and working closely with the selectors ? I don't think so. Do technical coaches in India especially report on the wards under them and is there a transparent process of reviewing their output. Currently no. The solution is not just coaches but a complete process change.

Posted by srisri on (July 4, 2010, 9:30 GMT)

wonderful article on coaching..abt rectification and all.well said

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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