December 1, 2012

International coaching is for the power-mad

You can't be in charge of a cricket team and also be human

Like the burnout of the high-profile under-pressure volcano Vesuvius, Andy Flower's burnout had been much prophesised (since 2009) and this week he was officially diagnosed with laptop fever. This is a debilitating condition brought on in his case by staring at training and nutrition optimisation spreadsheets for so long that the little numbers begin to blur together and form themselves into line-dancing leprechauns.

On Wednesday Ashley Giles was announced as the new next Andy Flower and tomorrow we can expect the first journalistic speculation that the King of Spain may also be in danger of burnout given the demands of his dual role as Twenty20 supremo and Fifty50 big cheese.

So what gives? We all like play at pin-the-blame-on-the-schedule, but that's not it. The amount of cricket isn't the problem. It's that everyone's so obsessed with winning.

If winning wasn't their raison d'etre, coaches could take a more laissez faire approach. Instead of perching anxiously on the pavilion balcony in ill-fitting tracksuits, chewing biros and mouthing to themselves the strike-rates of the Under-19s like they were practising their times tables; they could swan about wearing cravats and jaunty hats, spending lazy afternoons in the Gower Tea Rooms, quaffing champagne and sharing jokes with the members. They could idly scribe their tactics for the morning session onto finest Egyptian parchment with a peacock feather pen and have a messenger deliver it to the captain on a velvet cushion. They could turn up an hour before the toss, tell their chaps to run about a bit, then saunter off to see if there's any scrambled eggs left in the canteen.

But the gnawing anxiety of lion-eat-lion competition, when mixed with the grimness of professionalism produces an unhealthy psychological cocktail; a kind of obsessive compulsive cricket disorder. At 2.15 in the morning you get a text from your man in the Indian camp who tells you that Duncan Fletcher has introduced a new colour coding system for the team doughnut rota. Immediately you leap out of your hotel bed, order a fresh batch of marker pens and set to work creating the best colour-coded doughnut rota in the entire world, because it says in your contract that you will continually strive for excellence and there's no "healthy amount of sleep" or "sense of proportion" in the word "excellence".

The only people who would thrive in this environment are the kind of undesirables who should be nowhere near a position of authority. Napoleon, for instance, would have made a fine international cricket coach. He would have ruled the cricket world, as long as he didn't have to take a touring team for a three-Test series in Russia. Hitler would have run a similarly tight, maniacal ship, and Stalin would have known exactly how to deal with team nutritionists who bought the wrong brand of bran for Tim Bresnan's high-fibre breakfast.

But aside from psychopaths, homicidal maniacs and angry Corsicans, the job of international cricket coach is surely not for human beings. So there it is, Ashley, you've been warned. You can be a successful wreck of a human being or a reasonably content failure who gets to see his family regularly, but you can't be both.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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  • fanedlive on December 6, 2012, 2:06 GMT

    Poor buggers! Fancy travelling the world AND getting paid to be in an industry you love. Is it the accountability that creates the furrowed brow? This then could be a huge problem for Giles ...especially with the England teams' inability to understand or read spinners!

  • fanedlive on December 1, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    LOL! But this is true.... not just the coaches, this is the same with the players nowadays.

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