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May 9, 2005
After several weeks of speculation, the Indian board has short-listed four candidates for taking up the role of the Indian coach. Here we size up the leading contenders.
South Australia 1999-2004
There are few minds in cricket today as lucid and as inquisitive as that of Chappell, the former Australia batsman, selector, and coach of South Australia. Like all the best modern-day coaches, Chappell understands cricket not just as a specific set of pure skills to be learned and applied but as part of a larger totality, requiring knowledge of matters like body structure, different kinds of learning methods and motivational practices, and issues of diet and nutrition.
Author of a recent book called Cricket: The Making of Champions, in which he expounds upon such concepts as unstructured learning environments, and the unweighting and coiling of the body while playing, Chappell has a deep insight into the fundamentals of the game. There is no doubting his considerable technical understanding and tactical awareness, which comes, as he says on his website, from a lifetime spent in trying to understand cricket's complexities.
Chappell and the Indian team potentially make a good fit. He already shares a good rapport with Sourav Ganguly, having helped him out with his batting before India's last tour of Australia. Chappell also has some experience working in the subcontinent, having spent some time last year as a consultant with the National Cricket Academy in Pakistan. He is hugely respected everywhere, and the younger players will value his ability to break down a problem helpfully. But Chappell will be understandably wary of embarking on negotiations with the BCCI, having done it all once before in 2000, when he and Wright were in contention for the job and he was pipped to the post by Wright.
A veteran of two World Cup-winning campaigns as far apart as 1987 and 1999, Moody has considerable first-hand experience of top-flight cricket.
His coaching CV is admittedly rather light, being limited to one long stint at Worcestershire, where he holds the grand title 'Director of Cricket'. But Moody's record has been impressive, and he has publicly expressed his desire to coach either England or Australia after his county stint. "You strive for the top and the England job - like any other international coaching job - is the top," he was quoted as saying early this year. Skeptics might say that very little about Moody's record suggests that, even if he were offered and were to accept the post of India coach, he would have the requisite experience for the challenge. After all, he spent most of his career playing in Australia and England, and when he retired he chose to take up a position in what might be called his home away from home, Worcestershire. One could say that so far Moody has chosen to work within his comfort zone rather than expand it.
However Wright, too, came to India straight out of county cricket, and there is reason to think that Moody's comparative lack of experience may in some aspects be an advantage. While men like John Buchanan and Dav Whatmore have, in a sense, seen and done it all, Moody would arrive with a first-timer's enthusiasm and commitment. Hunger to succeed is just as important for coaches as it is for players.
The youngest of those featured here - he's not yet 40 - Moody has a long coaching career in front of him, and India would offer the kind of high-profile assignment he may want at this stage. Worcestershire have already expressed their readiness to release him from his contract if he is offered an international assignment.
India 1996, Kenya 1997-2003
Speak to Sandeep Patil about Kenya's dream campaign in the 2003 World Cup, when they reached the semi-finals, and he will constantly repeat that it was "no fluke". With astute motivational methods, Patil galvanized the Kenyan side with limited talent and helped them stun Test-playing teams like Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
Patil's first experience with coaching India was a disaster, with the team losing in England on the 1996 tour, but he himself admits that he was growing on the job at that point. After his successful stint with Kenya, he returned to take charge of the India A team, guided them to a very satisfactory tour of England - where they didn't lose a match - before winning the tri-series in Kenya, in a tournament also involving Pakistan A.
Not a man to bow to authority, Patil quit as India A coach since he thought he was being treated shabbily. "The BCCI don't inform me in advance about my assignments," he told Cricinfo last year," so that hampers my own programme. That is unfair." He went on to coach the Oman side in the Intercontinental Cup and helped them qualify for the ICC Trophy after some strong performances in the ACC Trophy.
Patil might have been all flamboyance when he played his cricket, but his more tempered approach and ability to extract maximum performance from less talented players make him a possible candidate for the Indian coaching role.
An outside contender for the post, Mohinder Amarnath has been out of the coaching loop for nearly five years. Amarnath guided a fledgling Bangladesh side in the mid-90s but was dumped after they failed to qualify for the 1996 World Cup. He then had a short stint coaching Rajasthan in the Indian domestic competitions. He turned down the India A job a few years ago and kept himself occupied with a few commentary assignments.
As a player, Mohinder Amarnath was the perennial comeback man with outstanding mental toughness. He is most remembered for countering the devastating West Indian pace battery with a string of courageous knocks in 1982-83. He carried on his fine form to the World Cup and starred in both the semi-final and final as India's unheralded bunch triumphed in stunning style.
Amarnath recently claimed that he was confident he could take India to "the next level" and felt that players at the highest level just needed a bit of fine-tuning mentally and technically to sort out most of their problems.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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