The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The cast of a star system
- ĎPlayers can switch off during a game, a coach canítí
John Buchanan

Being the coach of a champion side has its pros and cons and John Buchanan must have learnt it during his three-and-half year stint. Dealing with the Steve Waughs, the Ricky Pontings, the Shane Warnes and the Glenn McGraths may make his task a bit easier, but still he has to plan it out at the drawing board stage.

ďBecause the team plays so well, itís difficult convincing the players that there are other ways of playing. Thatís the tough part of my job. Yet, I see it as a challenge and ways should be explored to become a better player,Ē he says.

Working this out is, however, always not that easy. It takes hours and hours to shape things up in the proper perspective. ďItís a 24-hour, seven days a week job and is all about maintaining a high level of enthusiasm and energy. Players can switch off during a game, a coach canít.Ē

Of course, the domestic structure always comes to his aid. Itís the system back home that minimises the gap between the players. Imran Khan, who played in the Australian domestic circuit for some time, once placed it on a level with Test cricket. Thatís the reason why they churn out quality players regularly, is the common belief.

But all this in no way undermines Buchananís efforts. In fact, Bob Woolmer rates Buchanan over his other rivals in the World Cup. ďItís 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,Ē felt the former South African coach.

Look at it this way. The Darren Lehmann affair, the Shane Warne issue, the injury to Jason GillespieÖ Nothing has managed to unnerve the Aussie commitment and competitive spirit at this World Cup. Any other side would have struggled to overcome these problems but not the men from Down Under.

The Australian team doesnít revolve around one individual ó whether heís the captain, the best bowler or the next Don Bradman. Everybody tries to make a contribution. That has been the teamís USP. It has been a system-driven team, resulting in system-driven strategies.

Buchanan, too, attributes the success to the abundant depth in the squad, with allrounder Andrew Symonds and Andy Bichel rising to the challenge when the more established players have failed.

ďI think thatís the strength of the side, isnít it, or any side. If your so-called big guns are not firing then itís other people who will pick up the baton and run with it,Ē Buchanan said. ďItís great that throughout the tournament, whenever weíve been in some sort of position of weakness, thereís been somebody whoís stepped up to the plate.Ē

Buchanan said it was important the results didnít rely on so-called senior players. Thatís been the real strength. Itís because of the success stories of the Symonds and the Bichels that the Aussies have managed to overcome the failure of their top-order batsmen in the later stages of the tournament.

The Australiansí form and drive have been peerless and any weakness the Aussies possess have not raised its ugly head. But it remains to be seen whether they can produce the same results one more time.

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