“Whatever anyone says,” Indian coach Greg Chappell said on Monday, soon after the team arrived at the beautifully-located Elangeni hotel here, “the process is very important. It has been proven all over the world that systems are needed, a process is needed to set things up. Otherwise, you will have ad hocery and that will lead you nowhere.”
Chappell, perhaps, may have said this in reference to what he and everyone else who is part of the cricketing caravan here thought Sourav Ganguly had said at the HT Leadership Summit in New Delhi a couple of days ago, something to the effect that there was no point in having a process when it was not showing results.
Unfortunately, the former Indian skipper had been quoted out of context and those quotes went on to receive widespread publicity on the internet. What Ganguly had actually said was that Rahul Dravid should be given time to put his plans in place and be supported, but the problem was that India was an impatient country and people expected immediate results, so it was important to get results also to assuage that impatience.
Chappell was probably unaware of what exactly Ganguly had said, because he continued in the same vein, explaining his theory. “Countries everywhere, corporates, use a system. There are highs and lows in everything, you have to be patient about things and cannot afford to be too emotional, or it will lead you nowhere. In Australia, for instance, we started a process in the mid-Eighties, and it took nearly nine years for things to come together. The England line-up that won them the Ashes last year was also the result of a process that took five years.”
That Chappell was also in no mood to beat around the bush was apparent when he refused to get into what other former players had said about his roadmap for India being unsuitable, even if it was a plan that had worked for Australia. He would only say this: “If speaking the truth in India is a problem, then Indian cricket has a problem.”
He said that change was needed in India and it was something that had to be planned, and planned in a systemic manner. For instance, asked whether it made sense to have a planned strategy for developing senior cricket without applying that plan to the u-19s, he said it wasn’t.
“Ideally, the junior cricket programme should go hand in hand with the plan for the seniors. If it doesn’t, then it is fraught with danger. A feeding process is necessary, because if there isn’t one, it would create a vacuum when senior cricketers leave in a bunch.”
At the moment, though, he said he was okay with the way the team was progressing. “Yes, they have to go out there and perform but it is not just about wins and losses. The results are not always a correct reflection of how close games have been. We have not been blown away and whatever anyone says, this team is coming together, feeling good together.”
He said that a few players were still in touch with psychologist Rudi Webster and hopefully, would benefit from his experience. “It depends from person to person how much he can help. Different people react differently and react differently to different things. There are some people with whom words might work but with others, it has to be pictures, situations, experiences. There is no scientific process to this, there is no set pattern. When it clicks, it just clicks. You cannot predict when that will happen, you have to wait and see. But, of course, there is a timeline, it is not an infinite thing.”
He said the problem at the moment was that wet weather had chased India all over the place, leading to situations like on Sunday, when the series opener at the Wanderers was washed out. “The rain has been a problem. We could finish only six of the last 13 games we have played. It is necessary to go out there and do well but if you have to stop and start, stop and start, you lose momentum, you could lose the way.”
And that, he added, is where experience counted. He gave the example of Munaf Patel and S Sreesanth bowling at the death in the practice one-dayer against South Africa A Benoni and getting whacked all over the place. “They were inexperienced at that and it showed but they can only gain experience by going out there and getting it.” Calling the duo India’s “best prospects” in the pace department since Kapil Dev and Srinath, he added that India “could not have won the West Indies (Test) series without Sreesanth”.
“Before he came to us, he had not bowled 30 overs in a game, let alone in an innings. But he did it in the West Indies. I also promise you Munaf will be good. We could not have won in the West Indies if we had gone with the same combination we went with in Pakistan.”
He said that at the same time, the two pacers are still learning. “And learning can be a painful process, but you learn the most and gain your greatest experiences from your darkest days. Winning is good but the greatest knowledge often comes from the greatest defeats. It is not easy but that is what it is all about, learning and taking it forward. Not everyone can do it but even if a few can, it will make a difference.”