Monday, 11 June 2007

Why Graham Ford should do a better job than Chappell

So the drama is over and Graham Ford has just landed the most exciting and demanding job one can think of in the sports world. Though not exactly chest-thumping, but still, this was exactly what had been predicted in the previous post in this blog.

Hoping Kent would relieve Ford of his duties, I have this gut feeling that though it’s never possible to satiate the Men in Blue’s Blue Billion fans, Ford would prove a better coach than the person he succeeded, Greg Chappell.

A self-effacing, low-key coach, who loves to work in the backstage, Ford resembles a John Wright walking out of a barber’s shop after a haircut. The deep, intense eyes and furrowed forehead again reminds you of Wright.

Chappell was a disaster of a coach and had no experience of coaching any national team before he took over the Team India reins. But the case is not so with Ford. As Natal coach, Ford, along with senior pros like Malcolm Marshall and Clive Rice, guided an exciting talent pool that included Shaun Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and Lance Klusener.

He joined Bob Woolmer as his deputy in 1999 and eventually succeeded the deceased Englishman. Before the Hansiegate scandal hit South Africa cricket like a catastrophe, South Africa, under Ford, won eight of the 11 series.

Ford raises hopes because unlike Chappell, a typical Australian larrikin, he is not a loud mouth. He is not the one who would thunder “My way, or the highway.” It is easy to criticize Wright for being ‘soft’. But the fact remains that it was because of the affable Kiwi’s sacrifice that Team India at least had some results to show.

Wright tried asserting himself but soon realized it was not going to work. Sourav Ganguly’s imposing clout with Jagmohan Dalmiya’s backing and a flawed zonal representation in selection committee did not amuse him but once he realized he could not overhaul the system and has to work in it, Wright adopted quickly.

Knowing a system inside out is a pre-requisite if you want to re-create it. And you have to have that authority. But Chappell was in tremendous hurry and he thought he was not the Team India coach but the Board CEO. He completely exceeded the brief. With a few senior officials -- who were probably enamoured by Chappell the batsman, rather than Chappell the coach -- pampering his tantrums, Chappell had something to say about each and everything that has anything to do with Indian cricket. He even felt that MPs are paid to say whatever they want.

Despite his vast knowledge of the game, and I don’t doubt that, Chappell had a skin deep idea about the culture of India. Unlike Wright, Chappell never looked someone who is passionate about India and the cricket team. If passion marked Team India’s Wright’s era, it was indifference under Chappell.

Ford should be a welcome successor to Chappell, the media manipulator. Chappell’s Goebbels-ian use of the media tool, abetted by some senior, cynic journalists -- including one who heads a disputed cricket association – ensured that alongside the Chappell-Ganguly broadshow, there was sideshows like Chappell-Sehwag, Chappell-Harbhajan, Chappell-Yuvraj, Chappell-Tendulkar, Chappell-Zaheer.

Make no mistake, Ford will find it a crown of thorns. To their credit, the highly inflammable Blue Billion doesn’t discriminate. Ford would be hailed with every success and hanged with every defeat.

Image: BBC

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