The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ponting, Fleming are skippers who caught the eye: Bob Woolmer
- ĎThe laws and playing conditions donít allow coaches room to manoeuvreí

Johannesburg: South Africa may have overtaken Australia in the Test Championship table, but the Bob Woolmer years (1993-1993) remain the Proteasí best. After all, as coach, he took South Africa to another level and, since his exit (after the last World Cup), the United Cricket Board has struggled to find the right successor.

The Kanpur-born Woolmer, of course, continues to be in demand and, if the terms are mutually acceptable, he could head for the West Indies as early as next month. Among the finest readers of the game, Woolmer spoke to The Telegraph in Cape Town last evening ó the interview exclusively limited to the top captains and coaches in World Cup 2003.

The following are excerpts

On the captains who have impressed him most in this edition

Frankly, nobody has been outstanding... However, Ricky Ponting and Stephen Fleming have certainly caught the eye... Itís obvious that both have done their homework. Also, captaincy calls for a certain discipline ó both have that.

On Ponting: Has always looked in control, which is expected of a good captain. I think there have been traces of flexibility and innovativeness... A captain who wishes to be different must quickly respond to situations... He could be pro-active as well. Iíll give high marks to Ponting on different fronts and the one move I especially liked was when he quickly brought on Andy Bichel (against England). That turned the match on its head.

On Fleming: Again, always seems in control and gives the impression of getting the best out of his players... Moreover, he creates pressure, making it difficult for the opposition. While I canít pick any one move as being outstanding, I ought to make a mention of his brilliant unbeaten 134 versus South Africa (at the Wanderers)... A captain should lead from the front and that innings serves as an excellent example.

On Sourav Ganguly: The team has been doing well under him, but I havenít studied him enough to form a definite opinion. I havenít spoken to him either... Besides being flexible and innovative, a good captain must be mentally tough and possess external skills too. For instance, handling the media has become an important aspect... Generally, it helps if the captain has a high cricket intellect.

[The interview, by the way, took place before Sourav anchored India to the six-wicket win over Kenya, or else Woolmer would surely have commented on that excellent effort.]

On the coaches who have impressed him most in this World Cup

(Grins) Look, the laws and playing conditions are such that coaches donít have much room to manoeuvre. Therefore, itís difficult choosing the most outstanding. But, yes, John Buchanan appears a cut above the rest, while John Wright and Dav Whatmore have done a fine job.

On Buchanan: Itís easy to say that Buchanan has such a gifted bunch to work with. Where Iím concerned, though, he merits praise for the outstanding manner in which the Australian team prepares itself.

On Wright: A coach needs to be caring and must always be concerned about his players. Wright gives the impression that he is both, plus itís pretty evident that he has been working hard with your team.

On Whatmore: Deserves credit for helping turn the team around after that disastrous tour of South Africa, not many months ago. A quiet worker with clear goals.

Finally, on whether it hurt when the tied game in Durban threw South Africa out of the tournament

(After a pause) I felt for the boys... appreciated what they must have gone through... Itís easy to sit in judgement and say that the thinktank got the (229/230) calculation wrong but, yes, enough attention probably wasnít paid to small details. In a high-pressure match, even a small mistake can impact big...

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