Even before Greg Chappell came, glared and didn’t conquer, many people in Indian cricket were against the idea of a foreign coach for the team. Even John Wright, possessing none of the Australian’s hubris but only a guitar and an endearing what’s-the-fuss manner, had his detractors.
Now, after the end of Chappell’s turbulent reign, the drumbeat for an Indian coach has grown louder. Whatever the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decides, this is a good time for it to analyse the cricket coaching scenario in the country. Do we have enough avenues to learn world-class coaching in India? Are we grooming home-grown coaches?
Cricket people answer the first question affirmatively. “The means to learn coaching in India are not comparable to the developed places, but the NCA (Bangalore’s National Cricket Academy) is doing its bit,” says Paras Mhambrey, the former India medium-pacer and current Bengal coach. “It was at the NCA that I got to work with Frank Tyson (former England fast bowler and NCA chief instructor). But the NCA curriculum is based on the Australian coaching format. For it to filter down here takes some time. So I guess a few things need to be done.”
Chandrakant Pandit, the former India wicket-keeper and now the coach of Maharashtra, believes there are enough seminars and examinations for cricket coaching in India, as does Makarand Waingankar, project coordinator at the NCA when Tyson set up the program. The problem, they feel, lies in the second of the two questions asked above. Indian coaches need to be given opportunities once they are armed with their certificates.
“The Board could groom a younger coach or two by appointing him as an assistant to the main guy,” Pandit says. “For example when Chappell was the coach, we could have nominated a couple of Indian coaches to assist him, go on tours with him. We need to develop coaches, the way we develop players.”
This is common in football. The pre-eminent Jose Mourinho, who guided Porto to Champions League triumph and Chelsea to two successive Premier League titles, absorbed some of his wisdom serving as an understudy to former England coach Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona.
“The NCA curriculum is good enough,” says Waingankar. “But once the coaches have qualified, they find it difficult to get exposure. They are beaten to posts by big names.”
Mhambrey makes a similar point. “Qualified coaches are not getting a chance to coach the state sides,” he said. “This is where the state associations have a role to play. They should ensure that a level 1 or level 2 coach is appointed at least for the age group sides.”
Mhambrey and Pandit stressed there were enough capable candidates in India for the job of Indian coach. At the same time, they suggested that it is the person’s qualities more than his passport that the BCCI should look at.
“Man management is important in a coach,” said Pandit.
“But we need to remember that man management is a two-way street. The players have as much to do with it as the coach. In India, we have a tendency of overlooking a few things till the situation boils over, the way it did with Chappell.”
Said Mhambrey, “We have coaches who are foreigners and coaches who are Indians. But what the team needs is the best man for the job, someone who has genuine coaching credentials and is not just a name.”
Asked for his views on the matter of the new Indian coach, Ashok Mankad, the former India bat and Baroda coach, didn’t go into detail, saying it was too wide a subject to discuss on the phone. But he did say one thing. “There are many choices for the job. But do we have the eye to pick?”.