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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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.