Long after the end of Greg Chappell’s reign of error, marked by the seeming mental disintegration of his own players, the Indians do not seem to be missing him much — in fact, the absence of a permanent coach does not seem to be as debilitating as was the Australian’s presence.
Ravi Shastri cricket-managed the team to a win over Bangladesh, Chandu Borde did the same in the one-day series against South Africa in Ireland, but the arrangement is provisional, the BCCI is searching, in its own mysterious ways, for a man who can replace Chappell.
When that search will end is anyone's guess. BCCI president Sharad Pawar has said there is no time frame to this — and that they are looking, again, for a man from beyond India's boundaries to shepherd the team. Other officials have indicated that come September, India might just have found someone.
The search began after Chappell's departure, and was fraught with embarrassment for the BCCI. There was that courtship of Dav Whatmore which did not fructify — his eagerness to get the job seemed to do him in. Then followed the disastrous fling with Graham Ford — this time, the coach did the snubbing.
Where does that leave the team itself? In just a matter a months, it's been a huge change for them. From Chappell's style, designed to gain total control, to the benign rule of Borde — from the Australian's intensive, and some say, intrusive approach, to Borde's stately non-intrusive philosophy, the change is immense indeed.
Rahul Dravid and his men have been taking the change rather well. For Dravid, the change had many implications. Damned by association, he was forced to constantly build bridges between the coach and players, and his own batting could not get the attention it deserved. Now, though, he seems to have found some sort of ground where he is handling the players and they seem to be relating to him.
He has had the benefit of two former teammates — Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad are fielding and bowling coach, respectively. The arrangement seems to be working well, the team has been winning and that is enough for now. “We've segregated those roles (batting and fielding) really well,” Dravid said. “Then we do have Mr Borde, who uses his experience to guide us. Venky and Robin help in running the nets and doing the hard yards, looking after the nitty-gritty. We've tried to differentiate roles for everyone.”
The absence of a coach, though, does mean that the seniors have had to take on a greater workload. “Yes, there's obviously a little bit more responsibility I've had to take in certain areas,” the captain said. “But irrespective of whether we have a coach or not, the seniors do need to take up responsibilities.”
Robin believes that the absence of a coach has not really made a difference. “We worked the same way in Bangladesh and it worked well,” he said. “Here too, we have Venky, myself, Greg King and John Gloster, who organise practice. We have been working on specific areas, and it's been okay.”
Singh also points to the presence of 72-year-old Borde and says that for now, “it’s sufficient”.
Borde clearly is a non-interventionist — he lets the two coaches run sessions without imposing himself, and insists that his own role comes later. “I've been observing the players at the nets, and at the end of practice, I've been advising them,” he says.
Clearly, he is not a big fan of relative analysis of the two styles of coaching — in other words, he abhors comparisons, but only if, he says, “they are meant to be critical. Comparison done with the idea of criticising someone is wrong. I'm doing it my way, I don't want to discuss what others did in the past, what Chappell did. I want to do what I think is right for the team.”
Borde says the basic role of a coach is to motivate players, but agrees that even at this level, problems creep into technique, and need a trained eye to detect and correct them. “Sometimes you don't know what you're doing wrong, you are so immersed in the game that sometimes you don't realise the mistakes you’re making.”
Down Under, with time to reflect, perhaps a chastened Chappell realises the mistakes he made. The Indian team meanwhile, is trying to get over the after-effects of two years of processes and visions that led to disintegration.