SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

Offbeat

The nature v nurture debate in cricket

ESPNcricinfo staff

In an article for Aeon magazine, David Papineau explores the idea of nature v nurture in cricket by comparing it with other sports and examines whether genetic qualities plays a bigger role in the development of cricketers than environment.

If environments matter more in cricket than in soccer, then this makes cricketing skills look less genetically heritable than footballing ones. In football, most of the differences come from genetic advantages just because there aren't many environmental differences (if you live in a soccer-mad nation, opportunities to play are everywhere). But in cricket, there would still be a wide range of abilities even if everybody had exactly the same genetic endowment, because only some children would get a proper chance to learn the game. In effect, environmental causes are doing a lot more to spread out the children in cricket than they are in football. To sum up, cricket runs in families precisely because the genetic heritability of cricket skills is relatively low.

APRIL 28, 2014

UAE cricket

'We got trainers, but I had to train them too!'

Two years ago, former Pakistan fast bowler Aaqib Javed signed on as coach of the United Arab Emirates, a move prompted by the lack of opportunities in Pakistan and the demands of his family. In an interview to Wisden India, Javed shares his early memories of working with the team.

"All the players gave excuses. They said they couldn't train, they had jobs … I requested them to give three months to me, and after that, if they chose, they could leave," says Aaqib, his eyes smiling. "In three months, two of the fat guys had lost 25 kilos each and the others had also lost weight. They complained, but they were buying new clothes. When you train hard, you get mentally tough also. You are willing to work hard. They were feeling good."

At that stage, the team had just a one-member support staff - Aaqib. Over time, Aaqib has acquired assistant coaches, trainers, the usual group of people that a modern-day coach has around him at the top level. "I got tired, yaar," he says. "We got trainers, but I had to train them too! I needed a pool of players and even that I had to go and find. That's how it is. The administrators here are also part-timers. Things are improving now, but two years back, it wasn't so serious. But there was a desire to have a good team, which we have now."

MARCH 31, 2014

Technique

The need to simplify batting

In his column for the Hindu, Greg Chappell lists the factors that have changed the style and character of batting in modern cricket. Stressing on the need for simplicity, especially in coaching at the junior level, Chappell suggests that the role of a coach could be limited to creating an environment and observing the action.

Coaches should be seen and not heard. Their role should be to set the environment and observe the action. If refinement to a player's method is required, the parameters of the training session should be adjusted to encourage the desired outcome. This, in my view is what real coaching should look like. No other sport trains in an environment that is as far removed from the real game as cricket does. Good players don't learn to play and compete in nets. They have to learn from playing and competing in environments that replicate the real thing or they will not develop sufficiently to be able to make a difference and to attract spectators to the longer game.

MARCH 30, 2014

West Indies cricket

How will the Pybus Report fare?

West Indies have opted for a host of changes to their cricket structure in their Systems Report for 2014 and Tony Becca in Jamaica Gleaner is impressed with the emphasis on building professionalism in first-class cricket, with 15 players per team playing under contract and top-grade coaching staff on call. But memory serves him to be wary of how they take effect.

I remember also in the days of Jamaica's county championship, a two-day tournament which featured some of the West Indies contracted players, when many of the West Indies players turned up with sick mothers and aunts, fathers and uncles, in places like Canada and England, and were excused from some of the matches. I hope, really hope, nothing like that happens this time around.

JANUARY 09, 2014

The Ashes 2013-14

Give Flower all the power

Andy Flower likes to tap into the knowledge of other sports, and their coaches, as he decides on the best way to go about his job. That job has now become very tough in the wake of the Ashes whitewash and there are suggestions he will walk if he doesn't get his way over Kevin Pietersen. Sir Clive Woodward, who guided England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, writing in the Daily Mail, provides an view from outside the cricket world about how the ECB need to go about rebuilding.

No matter the sport, the head coach must be the only man who is unequivocally in charge, yet even Flower's job title of 'team director' muddies everything. In our national set-ups both in cricket and rugby, too many key decisions are being made by committee. That in turn leads to popularity contests and allows compromise to come into play. When things go wrong reports are commissioned -- the 2006-07 Ashes whitewash sparked the Schofield report -- but nobody fronts up to take the blame.

OCTOBER 29, 2013

Japanese cricket

Youtube, Shizuka Miyaji's first coach

Japan's Shizuka Miyaji is currently training with the New South Wales Women's team, sharpening her chinaman skills under the watchful eye of captain Alex Blackwell. Her six-month stint in Sydney is a considerable step up, after some of the other means Miyaji had to use to learn the game, writes Carly Adno in Australia's Telegraph.

"These kids learn how to play cricket from watching on Youtube. They'll be watching Shane Warne bowl his leg breaks and then you see them go out and try to do the same," Blackwell said. Miyaji is training with NSW and playing first-grade cricket with Universities and Blackwell is confident she will make enormous strides during her time in Australia. "So that's really how the kids in Japan become familiar with cricket because it isn't on live TV anywhere."

AUGUST 19, 2013

Indian cricket

Remembering Desh Prem Azad

The death of Desh Prem Azad, who coached many cricketers including Kapil Dev, Chetan Sharma, Ashok Malik and Yograj Singh, last week saddened followers of the game in India. In a personal tribute to Azad, Pradeep Magazine, writing for the Hindustan Times, remembers the coach, who was a strict disciplinarian and an inspiring cricketer to his young wards.

Chandigarh's Sector 16 coaching centre, where Azad honed the skills of young, impressionable boys, was the centre of his life, an abode where his writ ran. He was, in the tradition of Indian gurus, a man whose word was law and no one dared defy his instructions.

JUNE 28, 2013

The Investec Ashes 2013

Lehmann gives Australia freedom, belief

For Shane Warne, Darren Lehmann's appointment as coach before the Ashes is a sign of momentum shifting slightly in Australia's favour. As contemporaries, Warne observed Lehmann's skills as a player and a coach closely and he draws on these experiences to identify Lehmann's unique coaching style in his column for the Telegraph.

Boof is not really a coach. Yes, sure he can tell you about technique but he will be speaking to players about how they approach the game and prepare. He is a mentor. He has been there, done it and endured all the ups and downs over a lifetime in cricket. He has a great rapport with players, a good understanding of how to balance the old school and new.

Chloe Saltau of the Age believes Darren Lehmann's appointment as Australia's coach heralds a fascinating contest between his old-school philosophies and Cricket Australia's emphasis on a scientific approach to the game.

How will his traditional way of doing things collide with CA's modern matrix for running the team? What will happen when Lehmann needs a big effort from Ryan Harris, but the sports science says the injury-prone paceman is in the red zone? Can the old and new school work together, or will something have to give?

JUNE 25, 2013

Australian cricket

Welcome to Lehmann's 'workshop'

Ben Horne of the Australian Associated Press captures the differences between Mickey Arthur and his quiet, behind-closed-doors guidance counselor method to coaching and Darren Lehmann's brutally honest, no-nonsense gym teacher philosophies, and how the latter might just be what Australia need in this time of crisis.

In a young team that's reeling from the losses in experience of players Ponting and Hussey and coaches Langer and McDermott, Australia were crying out for a more authoritative voice. Someone capable of telling it straight if it needed to be told, but still commanding respect

JUNE 23, 2013

The Investec Ashes 2013

Australia need to learn to love the coach

An unsettled Australian team has historically never done well in England and with problems regarding the team surfacing on this tour, questions are being asked of Australia's ability to match England in the upcoming Ashes. How they counter these problems, according to Tim Lane in the Age, will depend on team unity and the backing that the coaching staff - specifically Mickey Arthur and Pat Howard - can provide to Michael Clarke.

Australian cricket took a long time to accept the concept of a coach. Bob Simpson was the first and he was eventually forced out for being too interventionist. Ian Chappell, who profoundly influenced Australian cricketers over more than one generation, always said coaches were for transportation from hotel to ground. Shane Warne, whose level of influence needs no elaboration, was similarly dismissive. These two are archetypal figures of Australian cricket and their views resonate. Right now, though, it's hard to avoid the view that Clarke needs all the support he can get from off the field. And if that involves tough love, so be it. Those who are causing trouble need to be confronted with the type of coaching discipline footballers expect to receive if they wilfully step out of line.

JUNE 17, 2013

England cricket

I fire myself up to get into the right zone - Anderson

James Anderson has stamped his authority as England's leading bowler in the record books. He surpassed Darren Gough to become the country's highest wicket taker in one-day internationals, a month after claiming his 300th Test victim. Sam Sheringham of the BBC catalogues Anderson's interview with his colleague Mark Chapman, in which the he talks about the skill, physical and psychological requirements of bowling quick.

"When I first got picked for Lancashire I couldn't swing the ball, so [coach] Mike Watkinson took me aside and taught me how to do it: the grip and the seam position," reveals Anderson.

"He said imagine the feel of it coming out of your hand almost like an off-spinner, your arm coming over almost like a round-arm, or low-arm. That really worked for me because I'm a feel kind of bowler.

APRIL 09, 2013

India cricket

Balwinder Sandhu: the offspinner with an inswinger

There are few Indian cricketers who have given back to the game as richly as Balwinder Singh Sandhu. Sandhu, who played an important role in India's 1983 World Cup win by dismissing Gordon Greenidge, turned to coaching after retirement and has coached teams at different levels in the domestic set-up. In the Times of India, Makarand Waingankar traces Sandhu's development as a cricketer and a coach.

The story of Ballu becoming a medium pacer is amazing to say the least. He was playing in 'D' division of a Mumbai Cricket Association tournament for Sind sports club. One day their main medium-pacer didn't turn up. The captain GT Punjabi threw the new ball to Ballu, who then was an off spinner! From that day, Ballu always bowled with a new ball.

APRIL 09, 2013

County cricket 2013

Dizzy dons the coaching mantle for Yorkshire

Former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie will begin his first county coaching stint with Yorkshire this season. In an interview to the Guardian, Gillespie shares his hopes for Yorkshire and why he believes Australia will have a challenging summer ahead of them.

" Their batting is the issue and Jimmy Anderson will pose the biggest problems. Australians struggle against good swing bowling and Anderson is the best in the business. Steve Finn is also very impressive. He's a big tall bowler who hits the track hard. He's got a good engine and runs in hard all day. There's a lot to like about Finn. Anderson will pitch it up and move it around while Finn runs in and gets bounce. [Stuart] Broad does both so it's a good, balanced attack and [Tim] Bresnan and [Graham] Onions can fill roles accordingly. And Graeme Swann is the best finger spinner around. They're in a pretty good place."

APRIL 07, 2013

Australia cricket

Australia turn to Hick to refine batting

Australia are doing their best to ensure their young batsmen learn the art of building innings. Former England batsman Graeme Hick, has taken up the position of a consultant at the Center of Excellence for the winter, and Cricket Australia are hoping their emerging batsmen can benefit from his experience. In the Courier-Mail, Hicks says that flashy cricket is a symptom of a society that moves fast.

"A few of the young players now like the flashy stuff and are probably more concerned about playing the reverse sweep than batting a long time."

APRIL 02, 2013

Coaching

Coaches should let players think for themselves

In the Hindu, Greg Chappell writes that players tend to develop a natural style while learning to compete against older players and pick up coping and survival skills in unstructured environments, where excessive coaching inputs are absent. Taking India as an example, he writes that the country will be better served if they provide spaces for young kids to be able to meet other like-minded individuals to explore their own talents without too much interference from adults.

In the developed countries, the structured environments with highly intrusive coaching methods that have replaced those creative learning environments, have reduced batting to an exercise in trying to perfect the imperfectible. This has meant that batting skills have deteriorated to the point where modern players really struggle to survive, let alone make runs, when the pitch is other than a flat road where the odds are overwhelmingly in the batsman's favour. If I had my way, I would change the education of coaches from training them to be the font of all wisdom to becoming managers of a creative learning environment in which young cricketers learn the game with minimal invasion from adults.

MARCH 13, 2013

Warne says homework punishment is petty

Shane Warne, writing for The Telegraph, questions the way Mickey Arthur is functioning in the dressing room and expresses his unhappiness about the rotation policy the selectors are employing.

To me the coach of any international team is a facilitator - someone to be in the background. He is a sounding board, a confidante for the players. If a player is struggling with his technique it is up to the coach to help him. He prepares players for cricket matches. That is his role.

The team have gone through a lot of issues over the past 12 months and many of the problems have been caused by the selectors. All the players are uncertain about their place in the team because of the way teams and squads have been chosen.

MARCH 03, 2013

Interviews

'The captain is always the boss'

Greg Chappell, the former Australia captain and India coach, talks to the Telegraph's Lokendra Pratap Sahi about his relationships with Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, and his philosophies in cricket.

The role [of a coach] is highly misunderstood [in India] and the expectations are very high... When I took over, the expectations were such that nobody could have achieved what was expected. One must realise that, at times, you need to risk losing in order to set things up for the future.

Dravid showed courage because, for everyone else, it was we can't do this, for if we get beaten, the media would tear us apart... Dravid did a magnificent job, because he bought into the philosophy of taking risks, making changes and looking ahead. As I've said, you don't stand still in sport... We wanted to take risks because we wanted to get better as a team.

JUNE 06, 2012

Coaching

Cricketers have too much power: Eric Simons

Anand Vasu, from Wisden India, speaks to Delhi Daredevils' head coach Eric Simons who says that modern cricketers have too much power and coaches must be given a greater role in decision-making.

“At the moment, you have a situation where if the coach is pushing a player and the player is not happy, the coach gets it in the neck and he disappears,” Simons said. “That's crazy. It's ridiculous the power that lies with the players in cricket. People should recognise that a coach should have a greater role in decision-making and then he can live and die by his decisions. At the moment, the coach is targeted and focused on when there's a struggle.”

FEBRUARY 09, 2012

Coaching

Greg Chappell on ending a lean batting spell

In the Hindu, Greg Chappell has a column on what top batsmen should do when going through a poor run of form. He says that instead of obsessing over replays and looking to tweak their techniques, batsmen will be better off if they "take a deep breath, start watching the ball again and trust their instincts".

The human brain is multi-layered; in simple terms, the ‘conscious' mind is the hardware that deals with the big-picture whilst the ‘sub-conscious' mind is the software that runs the physical programme.
When all is well, the player allows each part of the brain to do its job. This could be as simple as saying to oneself ‘watch the ball' — which gives the conscious mind something to do while letting the sub-conscious mind get on with what it does best.

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