Guiding a cricket team in India once was very simple — a former player invariably seated in the shade kept a benevolent gaze on players who honed their skills.
That approach underwent a sea change in 2000 when the board appointed former New Zealand skipper John Wright, establishing the tradition of hiring foreign coaches.
But the domestic T20 league has taken the focus on coaches to a different level. While all nine head coaches are foreigners, most of the specialists are also from abroad.
While Australian and South African coaches are in demand, the fact that India lags behind in producing coaches is reflected.
“It is a very professional environment, close to the international scene. The franchises don't take risks as they want to win. So they select the best possible coach,” former South Africa pace great, Allan Donald, the Pune Warriors coach, told HT.
“At the same time, there are very good Indian coaches who can deliver if given an opportunity.”
The constant demand to innovate and stay ahead brings its own pressures on teams and players while getting the right balance is also a crucial exercise.
“The foreign coaches in this league are people coaches,” explains Eric Simons, the Delhi Daredevils head coach.
Uniting players coming from diverse backgrounds is as crucial as chalking out specific plans.
Besides helping polish cricketing still, coaches need to help players assimilate to the diversity in the dressing room.
“When an Australian watches a Sri Lankan prepare in a certain way, they look at it from their perspective and sometimes misunderstand, or it could be an Indian watching a South African. For example, in the South Africa dressing room before a match, the players want to play loud and motivational music. But in an Indian changing room, they want to play calm music,” said Simons, who was the South Africa coach and also the India team’s bowling coach.
Donald says: “The coach has to ensure players are in the best mental shape. The intensity has to be right up there. They should be ready to play fearlessly under pressure.”
Tactics for success
Simons acknowledges that perfectly executing a skill is no guarantee for success.
“We focus a lot on three phases to any delivery — the decision on what tactics to use, its execution and the outcome. But sometimes we can make the right decision of bowling a yorker, and execute it perfectly, but an inside edge can go for four.”
Then, the key is to talk to the players and help remove the 'scars' of defeat before the next game.
Former chief selector, Kiran More, says, “It takes a smart coach to identify the right players for the right situations in T20. All teams that have done well so far have had strong coaches.”
But he wants coaches to get more support in India.
“It is only in the last six to seven years that the outlook towards coaches in the country has changed. We must provide adequate support for Rahul Dravid or whoever is ready to help Indian cricket as a coach.”
(with inputs from N Ananthanarayanan)