The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No coach, irrespective of stature, should have last say
Guest Column
Naresh Kumar
Sourav and Chappell emerged from the fireworks with just their egos dented

The frenetic media raised the Sourav-Chappell contest to such a pitch that the whole nation held its breath on that fateful Tuesday of September the 27th. As the battle intensified over the previous days, the reported happenings were reminiscent of two stone-throwing mobs pelting each other from glass houses.

The affair blew up like an untamed genie from a bottle, hogged the front pages of newspapers and pushed significant world news to the back pages. The end was a damp squib. Everything relating to the dispute was papered over.

Sourav and Chappell emerged from the expected fireworks, hand in hand, as bhai-bhai, with their egos dented, but intact.

The expression ‘papered over’ describes a patch-up job of like materials with bridgeable differences. The yawning gulf between Sourav and Greg cannot be bridged on both counts. Surface bonhomie like shaking hands after a game of pool has a low melting point.

Unhappily, the problems between the two seem to have taken the political roots even deeper.

This has left Indian cricket, which has the potential to be the best in the world, in disgraceful disarray. Hard decisions, wrong or right, need to be taken now.

It could already be too late. Moulding a bunch of young cricketers from all over India with diverse backgrounds into a winning team at world level is, to put it lightly, a Herculean task.

The backbone of any great team is discipline, without which you can achieve nothing. There can be no discipline without clear demarcation of responsibilities. Clearly, the captain has to be at the helm of affairs.

No coach, irrespective of stature, should have the final say. The job of the coach is to iron out the technical snags of the players, advise the captain on selection and more importantly on overall strategy.

It is for the captain to make the final decisions and accept the responsibility. How can a malleable figurehead inspire and lead the team'

Foreign coaches are rarely successful in India, especially in team games. To start with, they are bewildered, to put in mildly, at the state of affairs. Their attitude, communication wavelengths are seldom compatible with Indian frequencies.

They find Indian political spin, worthy of the great Warne, baffling and unplayable.

The Australians, especially, are head-butters with straight, tough and rough talk. Absolutely no mollycoddling. I remember a Davis Cup match at the Calcutta South Club when India (the Amritraj brothers) was playing against Australia.

Neale Fraser was the captain of the Australian team. Colin Dibley, one of the Aussie players, developed cramps during the break after the third set of his match and was lying down in the dressing room. Fraser was blowing Dibley up in outrageous language accusing him of not being fit and just stopped short of giving him a kick.

Now, cut to a similar situation in the Indian dressing room. One of our players has cramps. Frantic massage, sympathy and words of encouragement complete the scene. This is the great divide in a culture that leads to misunderstandings.

No wonder some of the Indian players have accused Chappell of using terror tactics. To us Indians it sounds like terror, but it is the tough way Australians put their point across.

The opulence that most of our top cricketers enjoy, which at times leads to slackening of effort and discipline is like a red rag to any coach, and does not help matters at all.

The solution is simple. For sure, the patching up is not going to work. It will only result in wasting of valuable time. A small, apolitical group of former greats should be given the complete authority to decide on what is to be done.

They have to be bold and decisive. If someone’s ego is going to be hurt, it is just too bad. Our country comes first.

Before we know it, the 2007 World Cup will be upon us. Win or lose we must not fail to put our best foot forward.

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