The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Amateur board loses pro hand
- Adrian Le Roux’s stunning decision to stay back in South Africa and do National duty

Calcutta: Adrian le Roux has cited “personal, career-influenced” reasons for choosing to end his association with Indian cricket, but a question must still be asked: Did the Board, an amateur set-up at best, give him the respect due to a pro'

The physical trainer, it may be recalled, came on board in April 2002 — largely on coach John Wright’s recommendation — on a weekly arrangement till the World Cup. Basically, he was paid $1,050 for every week of service to Team India.

The World Cup, of course, ended 11 weeks ago but, till now, a fresh contract had not been inked. Given that Adrian had become indispensable, the Board (in its own interest) should have done the needful by April 22, when he and Wright met president Jagmohan Dalmiya in the city.

Instead, among other things, there was only some “discussion” on a new contract — apparently, an annual ($52,000) deal was offered. However, even that was subject to the working committee’s approval.

With “brainstorming” sessions taking centrestage, nobody in the Board appreciated that somebody of Adrian’s calibre would surely be ‘approached’ by others. Clearly, pushing through not just his, but Wright and physio Andrew Leipus’ contracts, ought to have been an absolute priority.

Nothing was done.

The Board may argue that all three were “advised” to report at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) last week and that the trainer would have received $1,050 for every week in Bangalore. That’s hardly the point, though.

After all, he was without a cent from April 22, when the side returned home after the (farcical) tri-series in Dhaka. No pro, anywhere, will accept a situation of fending for himself for weeks on end.

“The Board (which received an intimation Monday) has been caught napping… It should have known that few in Adrian’s class are around and that somebody or the other would definitely make an all-out effort to sign him.

“With no contract in place, he was a free bird and I’m not surprised by what happened at the weekend,” a senior India player, who preferred not to be named, told The Telegraph Monday afternoon.

As it turned out, the South Africans themselves approached Adrian once Andrew Gray quit. Significantly, acknowledging the security/insecurity factor, his contract is for two years, not just 12 months.

“I got a call last Monday and decided to accept the offer after discussions with my wife (Michelle) and other members of the family,” he pointed out, when contacted on his cellphone.

The trainer added: “It wasn’t an easy decision, but what clinched it was the question I posed myself: Would I again get an opportunity to work with my national side if I rejected this offer' I wasn’t sure and, so, decided to go ahead. It’s a personal, career-oriented decision…”

Fair enough, but it has stunned those involved with Team India.

“It’s terrible… Adrian had earned the boys’ respect and, frankly, I’m not sure whether the Board can get an adequate replacement… Personally, I’m going to miss an excellent mate,” remarked Leipus, when reached for a comment in Johannesburg.

Thankfully, Leipus — who has been in business from October 1999 — has no plans to ‘strike’ likewise. “I’ll be at the NCA for a couple of seminars later this month,” he informed.

Still, if the Board is to learn, it must quickly finalise the physio’s contract.

Captain Sourav Ganguly, in London at the moment, reacted in much the same way.

“He functioned as a pro… Now, the Board has to find somebody just as good,” Sourav said, speaking exclusively.

[The captain, incidentally, is heading for Rome and Venice this week. He can afford to relax, now that the specialists in London have ruled father Chandi doesn’t require another bypass. Dona and daughter Sana will be accompanying Sourav to Italy.]

For his part, Adrian (first introduced to Team India during the 2001-2002 tour when the Bloemfontein Test finished prematurely), insisted he wouldn’t “forget” his experience with Sourav and Co.

“I did have a great time… Indeed, at some point, I will come over and catch up with the guys with whom I spent a year… The players have become fitness conscious and, as they are pros, will definitely continue with whatever I started,” the trainer, who authored individual fitness programmes and was ruthless during diet-inspections, signed off.

They should, yes, but Team India won’t quite be the same again — not for some time, at least.

Postscript: A concerned Wright had this to say from Bangalore late Monday — “It’s a bolt from the blue decision... However, we will have to move on and get somebody as competent as Adrian, if not better...”

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