It’s said great players don’t necessarily make good coaches. But that exactly seems to be the case with great bowlers. Proving their point are Craig McDermott and Allan Donald in their roles as bowling coaches for Australia and South Africa respectively.
The involvement of Donald and the influence of McDermott are there to see in the success of their teams, which is being highlighted again in the ongoing Test series. For the sheer quality of bowling on display, the South Africa versus Australia series makes for compulsive watching.
If the connoisseurs were floored by the devastation wreaked by Mitchell Johnson, in the opening Test, the hosts delighted the purists in the second game by giving an exhibition of how to hunt in a pack.
EXPERT AT WORK
The hand of Donald was obvious in the way Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Wayne Parnell and part-time spinner, JP Duminy, all combined with telling effect in both innings at Port Elizabeth to dismantle the Australian line-up.
With his vast experience at the highest level, Donald’s input in strategy-making would have been crucial for the Proteas. The PE wicket was devoid of any pace, which meant Johnson couldn’t generate the deadly steepling bounce. It was an interesting move since the home team too had gone in with an all-out pace attack. Knowing that sheer pace wouldn’t be effective, the SA pace arsenal instead targeted the batsmen with reverse swing and spin.
It is after long that an Australia bowling attack, under McDermott, had been outsmarted. Otherwise McDermott has worked magic with his men. It was under him that Australia blanked India 4-0 in the 2011-12 series and then whitewashed England 5-0 in the Ashes this season. In between, when he was on a break, Australia bowlers’ fortunes slumped in India (2012-13) and in the away Ashes series.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
It brings into focus the role of all bowling coaches, including India’s Joe Dawes. It’s not important that McDermott and Donald were giants of the game as players and Dawes has only played first-class cricket. There is a growing trend of non-players managing high-profile outfits with success. The point is whether Dawes has been the right choice for India.
We see Donald around the boundary line giving tips to his bowlers. Where was Mr Dawes when things were going wrong for the bowlers in New Zealand or SA?
Whether it makes sense for India to have a foreign coach is a point to ponder. Most successful sub-continental bowling attacks have centered around pace and spin combinations: Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir to Wasim Akram-Waqar Younis with Saqlain Mushtaq for Pakistan, Muthiah Muralitharan with Chaminda Vaas for Sri Lanka, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble for India.
Ex-India spinner Maninder Singh has his doubts about Dawes. Maninder points out the dipping performance of the spinners. “Ravindra Jadeja is a one-dimensional bowler at the moment, but it is not that he or Ashwin can’t improve. They can be different bowlers with proper guidance. Their approach was wrong. The strategy to frustrate the batsman can work on turning tracks, but you need to try something different overseas. I don’t see any great ideas. A coach who understands spin can get it done,” says Maninder.