Thursday, 12 April 2007

A Captain Is As Good As The Coach He Gets… or… Coaches Win Matches

Now that BCCI is headhunting for a full-time coach, I ponder who fits the bill and wonder how much it hinges on the captain-coach relation.

I often felt that like openers, the captain-coach duo too needs to be perfect foil for each other, at least in Indian scenario. They should be as different as chalk and cheese, acid and alkali, yin and yang. I believe it’s like an average Indian couple. One of them has to make some sacrifice, concede an extra inch, and take the backseat to allow the other to cap the initiative. It may smack of male chauvinism but the reality if you have equal number of hen-pecked hubbies as against docile wives!

I feel the Sourav Ganguly-John Wright marriage yielded the results just because of that. Ganguly’s relation with the former Kiwi captain may have dwindled towards the end but the southpaw should acknowledge that he owes much of his success, and a good drink, to the affable Kiwi.

The Ganguly-Wright pair was just the perfect combination. An assertive, aggressive, hi-adrenalin skipper in perfect contrast to a reticent, introvert coach. Indian cricket owes a lot to Wright. A divorcee, away from his two sons, Wright spent many a lonely new year’s eve in company of candles and his favourite guitar in his hotel room in the adopted homeland.

You can always accuse him of being soft, vulnerable to Ganguly’s tantrums and whims but to his credit, Wright never used media to wash the dirty linen in public. Media is a dangerous weapon, a double-edged blade that hardly serves any purpose other than mudding the water. See how Wright’s successor manipulated media to serve his purpose and left the team in complete shamble.

Wright did raise issues with the men who mattered but Ganguly, with a Godfather in Jagmohan Dalmiya, could not be reined in, the zonal selection system stayed on (till Sharad Pawar’s regime just scrapped it) and other things also ceased to change. Despite all provocations, Wright never disgraced Indian cricket.

Once he quit – on his own, no mean feat in Indian cricket – I always doubted how long the Ganguly-Chappell honeymoon would last. Both are the same side of the coins, headstrong, abrasive, combative, pugnacious.

It was obvious that two men of such strong ego can’t share the dressing room and one had to go. Soon sparks started flying out all over and Chappell won the first round. Enter Rahul Dravid and to be honest, I expected this marriage to last longer and deliver the goods as well.

Dravid is a perfect team man, a reliable cricketer and a captain’s delight. But he is not the one who would assert himself . And I’m not the only one to feel so about a player who has played the second fiddle throughout his life – his epic knocks would always got overshadowed by VVS Laxman’s class, Ganguly’s pyrotechnics or Sachin Tendulkar’s stroke-making.

Dravid needed a coach like Chappell and the combination looked a balanced one. Somehow, despite their mutual admiration, the Dravid-Chappell pair did not produce the results. You can’t really blame Dravid. I believe a captain is as good as his coach. And at times, coaches win matches.

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