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Coaching stakes: Pros outweigh past masters

The ills of our domestic cricket have been well documented ? everyone knows about the absence of quality, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2006 01:29 IST

EVEN BY the ‘lofty’ standards of our cricket, this incident is bizarre. But it actually happened this season in the Duleep Trophy.

A batsman, settled in his stance, pulled away as the bowler ran in, distracted by chattering around him. He looked accusingly at the usual suspects — short-leg and silly-point — but both fielders were silent. Only then did the batsman realise that the culprit was actually the square-leg umpire, who was coolly chatting on his cellphone!

Not wanting to offend the umpire, the batsman walked up to him and requested politely: ‘Sir, main disturb ho raha hoon. Please speak softly.’

The ills of our domestic cricket have been well documented — everyone knows about the absence of quality, the general disinterest and pathetic playing conditions. And then we read of this drama of the umpires calling off play, ostensibly due to bad light, hours before the scheduled close and disappearing from the ground along with the referee.

Not much has changed over the years but the trend of appointing coaches to run sides is a fresh development. Mumbai, the traditional powerhouse, has caught on to this trend and is successively exporting its expertise through former players, many of whom have landed jobs — with annual salaries ranging from Rs 6 to 12 lakh — with various state sides.

While Chandrakant Pandit, Paras Mhambrey, Pravin Amre are coaches from the current generation, Karsan Ghavri, Balwinder Sandhu and Ashok Mankad represent the earlier generation of player-coaches.

However, not many are convinced that coaches make a substantial difference to a team. What most do is merely conduct nets and collect printouts from the nets sessions containing information about the opposition.

For the most, their pre-match message is brief: ‘Work hard, hold your catches, don’t gift your wicket, and good luck!’ A pro who has been around for a while on the domestic circuit says: “Not one coach has improved performances, while there are many who have ruined good sides.”

This, of course, is uncharitable and incorrect because there are many knowledgeable past players who are working successfully as coaches. But there are also quite a few others who don’t have formal training and are appointed for all the wrong reasons — they are recipients of laddoos given out by the state associations in the larger game of patronage and politics.

These coaches bring little that is positive to the table, but carry a baggage of bias and agenda.

So, given a choice, what is a better investment for a Ranji side — a coach or a senior pro taking charge? The unanimous answer — the pro, someone who is experienced enough to lift the others by showing them the way.

An insider who leads by example, not someone who is unconnected and sits on the sidelines.