For last few years, Glenn McGrath was considered the best "final batsman" in the batting lineup of any country. His average of seven in Tests was especially demoralising for the opposition as along with other batsman’s 20-30, it helped Australia rub it in by adding a few more runs for the last wicket. In fact, the pigeon was averaging over 12 in his last 25 matches beginning October 2004.
Surprisingly, McGrath credited his success not to any coach, but to skipper Steve Waugh, who undertook special efforts to transform him into a perfect 11th batsman – as someone whose final resistance could considerably irritate the opposition.
Big boys’ responsibility
What Waugh did with McGrath, the likes of Sachin, Dravid and Sourav can easily do with Sreesanth, RP and Ishant by making them stay long enough to rub it in. This is something even a Whatmore could not have done, or a Ford might not be able to do.
Similarly, in bowling, the way Pakistani bowlers like Sarfraz Nawaz, passed on the secrets of reverse swing to the next generation, Indian bowlers can do likewise. By sharing their specialities, and the flaws they have detected in the opposition, they will only be adding more potency to the Indian bowling. Though that might also mean creating more competition.
So this Indian team needs more of consultants or specialist coaches, who can work in tandem with senior pros in the team, to fine-tune the juniors to face the battles ahead. These consultants, designed to utilise their expertise only in specific areas, and nothing more, can be the real motivators. Already, India have a bowling and a fielding coach. Adding just a batting coach, rather than a general purpose coach, should help the team fare better.
In the last few years, the one coach who has got kind words in the Press (and one is not talking about Bangladesh press!) is Ravi Shastri. Smart operator that he is, Shastri never exceeded his brief, which was mainly to motivate his players as cricket manager. He worked as a perfect cricket manager, the like of which India needed. The former Indian captain worked with the team for only about a month, but under his stewardship, it always bonded like the best.
So the ideal combination will be to have a cricket manager, with the task of taking care of the motivational needs of the players and make them understand and counter the psychological warfare, along with separate batting, bowling and fielding consultants.
An important contribution of a coach in traditional mould lies in strategy formulation. Here too, specialist consultants can be more effective in their respective fields. A batting consultant, along with the skipper, will be much more equipped to identify batsmen capable of tackling a particular pitch, an attack, and decide on his positioning. A bowling consultant will be aware of which bowlers to be used in which position, and a fielding expert will know and guide that in crunch situations, which player needs to be placed where.
Since India have decided on a general purpose coach, here Ranatunga steps in as a better alternative to most other players, as he can act both as cricket manager and a batting consultant. A top notch batsman in his heydays, Ranatunga can be the perfect guide to players on batting inputs compared to Ford, who has just seven first class matches to his credit.
This stoutly-built, tough-but-cool former Lanka skipper has faced psychological warfare like no other Asian Captain has, and still humbled Australia in the most critical match of his career. That is what the Indian batsmen will need from him in the coming months.
He understands the way Asians operate better than most others, and a perfect working relationship with Whatmore may have given him valuable insight into coaching as well. This dark horse can be the horse for the course.