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Imperative to have talent in critical positions

india Updated: Sep 24, 2012 23:12 IST
John Wright
John Wright

One of my coaching heroes and mentor was Brian Clough, the well known English football manager. Back in the late 70s, Clough took his teams, Derby County and Nottingham Forest, from the second and third divisions to win the first division (now called the Premiership).

Not content, he proceeded to win two European Cups with Nottingham Forest - an amazing achievement for an English club that once languished in the lower divisions.

Not a man to mince words, he loved to squash and when a waiting journalist enquired if he had had a good game, he replied, "Yes son, I pretended the ball was your head."

On another occasion, a player, who had been dropped to the second team, asked him why. "Because we haven't got a third team," was his explanation.

Game changers
In his autobiography, Cloughie, there is a chapter on how to manage a football team. He contended for any side to be successful, outstanding players and performances were needed in at least three critical positions.

One at centre forward to score goals; a centre half and goalie to stop goals. As he used to say, "There is no point in scoring three if we are letting in three."

There are key positions in any side where talent is vital. If we were to apply Clough's model to a T20 team, good sides will need at least five key players in critical positions.

The first three being the two openers and the No 3 in the batting order, along with the two opening bowlers.

In T20, you need to win the first seven-10 overs and seize control early to give yourself the best chance. Otherwise, you are always playing catch up. While selecting the team, I would make sure that I picked those five key players.

If you were to look at the scorecard of India's annihilation of England, Irfan Pathan was elevated to open with little success, but India's top-three batsmen contributed. At 119/3 after 10.3 overs, India were well ahead in the game.

In England's innings, only Jade Dernbach (35) got a start. Pathan got two early wickets and Harbhajan Singh did the rest. So with bat and ball, India's key players succeeded. At 18/2, England were always chasing the game.

The Pakistan-New Zealand game, however, was not quite a clear illustration of Clough's theory. It is worth noting, however, that Pakistan won the toss, chose to bat and their openers and No 3 scored 43, 25 and 56 respectively. The New Zealand top order couldn't match them and struggled to chase down the total.

The writer is a former India coach. 360 Corporate Relations