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Deadly game in India, Pakistan

High expectations from Indian and Pakistani fans put the coaches under extreme pressure, write Pradeep Magazine and C Shekhar Luthra.

cricket Updated: Mar 20, 2007 04:19 IST

Greg Chappell was slapped by a cricket fan in Orissa. John Wright was allegedly caught by the collar by one of his players. Coaches in India and Pakistan work under extreme pressure. In Bob Woolmer's case, the stress turned out to be killing.

On Monday, Woolmer's widow was quoted as saying, "His job coaching (in Pakistan) has been incredibly stressful." All the men who have been in charge of India and Pakistan would agree.

"The job in any case is tough. You are travelling all the time, away from your family. It is very stressful and I can understand what must have gone through Woolmer. He must have been a very lonely man that night," John Wright, former Indian coach, said, referring to the day Ireland beat Pakistan.

"The expectations in the sub-continent are huge and that puts extra pressure… The buck stops with you. And since you are a foreigner, the pressure is even greater, as you are viewed with suspicion in certain quarters," Wright added.

Madan Lal, another former Indian coach, agreed.

"It has always been a very lonely world for a coach here. And if he is a foreigner, it is worse; you can well imagine his plight. Players usually go out and relax after a match, but the coach is always preparing for the next game. Woolmer was a hardcore professional and that probably took his life. It looked as if he took it (Pakistan's ouster from the World Cup) to heart."

Dav Whatmore, the man who transformed Sri Lanka and is now coach of Bangladesh, told Bangladeshi reporters in Trinidad that it was different coaching Bangladesh or Sri Lanka (where the pressures are less and reactions are not so extreme) than India or Pakistan.

"It (coaching India or Pakistan) is very stressful as you have to think about the game all the time and plan strategies days ahead," Whatmore said. He added Woolmer had looked stressed and very tired at a managers' meeting held earlier.

What of Greg Chappell, the man who Madan Lal believes is the "softest target in this part of the world?"

On Sunday, Chappell said he "feels" for Woolmer's family. "I know how demanding a job like this can be. It is a tough job, somehow you have got to find ways to relax and enjoy yourself when it is difficult."

According to Madan Lal: "The cricket boards of India and Pakistan must understand that it's just a game and not war. During my tenure as India's coach, I experienced quite a lot myself. There were times when I used to feel completely numb, on days when we didn't do well."

Chappell had said the same during India's tour of South Africa, when asked about the attacks on him (the verbal abuse and the effigy-burning) in India at various times.

"The degrees of it have probably been the hardest to anticipate, but, unfortunately, as coach, it comes with the territory," he had told Hindustan Times. "There are days when I would rather not have had it".

Coaching India was the "toughest job in cricket," Chappell had said, adding that it was one of the reasons he had wanted the job.

"I've learnt more about coaching in this time than I could have learnt anywhere else in that same period. I've learnt more about myself in that time. I've been able to absorb more punishment than I thought possible."

Most telling was one line, "You can afford to be despondent for a moment and that's it." Woolmer probably let that moment stretch.