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IPL puts captains and coaches under the scanner

A larger question is about the impact and contribution of high profile coaches in T20s. If top coaches could ensure top results, RR, RCB and DC wouldn’t have such poor IPL records.

cricket Updated: Apr 17, 2019 10:02 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
IPL 2019,IPL,Virat Kohli
File image of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) head coach Gary Kirsten and captain Virat Kohli (PTI)

Politics is uncertain and change can happen in the time it takes to press the EVM button. Cricket, especially IPL, is equally uncertain but it takes longer for reputations and perceptions to change.

Still, look how the wheel, so to speak, has turned for Virat Kohli. After Australia, King Kohli was Indian cricket’s undisputed cricket czar — top batsman, top leader, top celebrity.

Halfway through the IPL, his formidable reputation requires repairs. RCB are, once again, where it usually sits on league standings and people have found voice to ask awkward questions. Kohli, the batsman, is having a quiet tournament but that is a minor issue because class is permanent.

More serious are doubts about his captaincy and leadership. With Team India, Kohli is the all conquering hero, but with RCB he is the vanquished, about to sign the surrender papers.

Colleagues and critics have come down on captain Kohli with a sledgehammer. Gautam Gambhir rated him an ‘apprentice’ and said he was lucky not to be sacked — an extraordinary rebuke considering Kohli has captained more than 100 IPL games.

ALSO READ: Blitzing in the IPL, Hardik Pandya wants to carry his form into World Cup

Of course, it can’t be that Kohli the good (Test) captain has suddenly become a bad (IPL) captain. More likely: he wasn’t a tiger earlier, nor is he as bad as some make him to be now. Also, as RCB lack quality, just a captain can’t turn them around.

While it’s unfair to be harsh on Kohli, serious questions must be addressed to IPL coaches. All IPL teams are massively top heavy and a big contingent of coaches sits in every dugout. This raises the inconvenient question: What are they doing? Do teams need a coaching staff as large?

If this was the way to go why not load coaches onto teams in other formats too. In 50 overs and Tests, cricket is as tactical as chess in terms of moves and counter moves. With matches unfolding at a slower pace, the coaching thinktank (in the dressing room) can plan and strategise. T20 cricket, however, provides no such opportunity — once play begins, there is no time for course correction.

A larger question is about the impact and contribution of high profile coaches in T20s. If top coaches could ensure top results, RR, RCB and DC wouldn’t have such poor IPL records. Gary Kirsten, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting are true blue chip coaching stock, the best in the business, but teams coached by them have horrible records.

Surely, the fault lies not with them — it is the IPL format (14 matches in 45 days) that punishes players, pundits and coaches alike. The dynamics of T20 cricket demands captains think on their feet (example: MSD) and players display sharp match awareness in pressure situations. It’s ultimately about nerves, for instance, when a yorker is needed can the bowler get it right? With a wet ball in hand, Andre Russell at the other end and only four runs to protect, it isn’t easy.

Interestingly, more games have been lost by poor strategic decisions than won by brilliant tactical moves. Coaches often misread the pitch and make wrong selection choices. There are also many instances of strange batting positions where ‘finishers’ keep waiting in the dugout and teams leaving things too late. Against RCB, with MI chasing 172, Pollard came to the crease after 17.5 overs — and didn’t face a single ball!

First Published: Apr 17, 2019 10:02 IST