With modern technology, DRS, new training techniques, more stress on strategy and all that, one position which has really become important as well as highlighted in cricket is the coach/support staff. In fact in some cases, it’s become more important than the team itself. Who can forget the grand efforts of KKR in IPL when they had more support staff than the team itself – coach, batting coach, fielding coach, bowling coach, nets coach, throw down coach, bowling machine coach, bat polishing coach, mental conditioning coach, hair conditioning coach, drinks coach, press conference coach, captain’s coach, vice captain’s coach, substitute’s coach, praying coach, toss coach and god knows what else.
However, here is a tribute to these gentlemen – the coaches. This is how my Coach XI will look like.
1. David Lloyd – Bumble, as he is fondly called was considered to be an unlucky cricketer – for himself that is. Till recently, I didn’t know he has worked as a coach. For me he has always been a commentator who sounded as if he was shivering in nervousness if the match was as close as last Sydney test. And if his team, England, needed 12 runs in 47 overs with all wickets in hands against an attack boasting of Nitin Gadkari, Pinchoo Kapoor and Guddi Maruti, he didn’t take a breather unless England won the match. But Bumble was the torch bearer of the philosophy – a team doesn’t just need team of its supporters, they need bigger supporters in the team as well. During his stint, the number of members in England’s increased from one to almost the entire population in the country. Since everyone who could spell the word cricket was part of England’s support staff, they had to start importing players from South Africa. While giving his last speech as a coach, Bumble thanked all the English cricketers in the team for extending their support to him. Alas, he didn’t hear a single clap but how could he? He was thanking English cricketers but the team was full of South Africans. “We flippin’ murdered them” he must have thought.
2. Mohsin Khan – Considered being extremely talented batsman especially on fast and bouncy pitches, his best performance came in Saathi. His test career average was 37 and quite expectedly, he averaged 43 against India. He could have become another tormentor for us had Reena Roy not come to country’s rescue and cut short Mohsin’s career. She made sure he tormented us on screen of a different kind – the celluloid one. Saathi was slated to be Deewar of 90s – Aaditya Pancholi was soon going to become Big B and Mohsin, at least Shashi Kapoor. While former did become Big B of Nepal or Bhutan, not sure, Mohsin finally has grabbed the most lethal post in sports for a non-player. He has become Pakistan’s coach, interim though. There is no doubt that given his record, he would be more than useful as a coach. But how would Pakistan use his acting skills? Or do I see Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif ruing the fact that they didn’t get to learn acting. You get my point, don’t you?
3. Javed Miandad – Rumor has it that Javed was forced to sign his retirement papers on a gunpoint. Otherwise he might still be playing and practicing his high-jump for WC15. I have never seen such an involved coach – during the match. When his bowlers were bowling, he would often signal to bowl bouncers – even to Saqlain Mushtaq. When his batsmen were batting, he would often signal to play some strokes which he would have played. Once I lip read one of the batsmen – “Yeh khud hi aake khel ne na” (why doesn’t he come and play himself). While playing against Pakistan, opposition isn’t as much worried about sledge from the team as much it’s worried about Javed’s sledging – even his own team remains wary of his sledging. Javed had one dream to beat India in India – in the capacity of the coach. But this may never be fulfilled now. Not because Pakistan cannot beat us at home. Not because Javed will never become Pakistan’s coach. It’s because Javed may never get an Indian visa now. His son has ruined his chances.
4. Greg Chappell – He told Sachin that maybe he should hang his boots. After that Sachin scored more international runs than Guru Greg could manage in his entire career. Guru Greg got Ganguly kicked out from the team and rest is history. When Sehwag’s form got bad in ODIs, Guru Greg played a part in taking corrective measures and Sehwag was dropped from the test side. He told Deepak Chahar that he wasn’t made to play cricket. Deepak went to take 8 wickets on debut in Ranji, demolished Hyderabad and is now Rajasthan’s strike bowler. Guru Greg told all of us that Suresh Raina is next Sachin and Sachin must wondered if he was so bad. Raina cleared Sachin’s doubt and must be wondering if it was the Bhaang that he had mixed in Greg’s milk once which made him say that. After over 200 years of British Rule, the best thing that could have happened to us was that from numerous states, we became one country. Entire Hogwarts responded to Harry Potter’s call in his war against Voldemort, barring Draco Malfoy. Even team India got united after Guru Greg’s era and we saw a golden run. By the way, we also got to see DracoMalfoy.
5. Duncan Fletcher – Long back, he was asked to coach an England team in the days when it was slam banged in Ashes. He took a vow to make England number one in test cricket. He succeeded in 2011. So what if he wasn’t coaching them, maybe he was coaching for them. Duncan Fletcher became a hero in the world of underdogs when he helped Zimbabwe winning against Australia in WC83. If he almost single handedly defeated them in 1983, he has pretty much made it for Australians in 2012. So what if he isn’t playing against them, maybe he is coaching for them.
In 2007, Duncan Fletcher decided to quit cricket and adopt Rugby as his “the game”. I wish he had. He didn’t. Tell me, what has changed in Indian cricket since 2nd April 2011 to now. Sreesanth is no longer playing for us but I am not sure if it’s a bad thing. Poonam Pandey is not making “those” promises (Ok, she fulfilled it recently) and I am pretty sure it’s a good thing. Well, what has changed is the headmaster at Hogwarts. Earlier it was Garry Potter. Now it is Duncan Riddle.
6. David Williams – It’s difficult to fill the wicket keeping spot in this team. Andy flower is yet to show if he is a fit here. Hence, I am picking David Williams – the man who had to wear heals so that he could stand taller than the stumps. David Williams was Sir Agarkar’s inspiration – he scored 7 ducks in his 18 completed innings in test cricket. David Williams was Martin Crowe’s inspiration – for making a comeback in competitive cricket when he fielded as a substitute in a test match even though he was an assistant coach. I am sure he must have fielded better than Monty Panesar.
7. Kapil Dev – Kapil Dev was India’s first high profile coach before Guru Greg stole that honor from him. A great all-rounder and a very popular cricketer, Kapil never kept secrets. He even disclosed the secrets of his energy. But one thing that he has never disclosed is – why Indian didn’t enforce follow-on in THAT test against New Zealand. Kapil was an all-rounder in every sense. Post his retirement, he has been a commentator, a coach, a politician, a key executive in ICL and has held an important position with NCA. He had his moments in each of these roles. Once on air, Kapil made a legendary comment about Jimmy Adams who had just recovered after being hit “there”. Kapil said “Unki dharampatni ko chinta karne ki ab koi aavashyakta nahi hai. Adam ab theek hain” (His wife needn’t worry as Adams is fine now). When Rahul Dravid scored a ton to save India from blues of losing a test match against New Zealand at home, Kapil gifted him a bottle of Jam as Rahul’s nickname is Jammy. Thank god Noel David didn’t save that test match. For the blink-and-miss period in which he donned Indian cap, Noel David was given nick name of Noella – after Vinod Kambli’s first wife Noella. But after his playing days, Kapil didn’t last long in any of the roles – be it commentator, coach or anything else. Maybe he would have lasted in ICL but ICL didn’t last long.
8. Bishan Singh Bedi - Mr. Bedi was on the hit list of global environmentalists when he called for polluting Pacific Ocean. After a shoddy performance in his coaching days, Mr. Bedi announced “This Indian team should be dumped in Pacific Ocean”. Soon, he was dumped. Mr. Bedi was a man for fitness. He put so much emphasis on fitness during his coaching regime that lot of players retorted back when asked why they weren’t showing energy on the field “Because we are spending it all in the nets”. Mr. Bedi is known for his flight in tweaking and fight in talking. He is known as best left arm spinner by those who have played him. He has called most successful off spinner a javelin thrower. He has called Sunil Gavaskar a destructive influence. During India’s tour of England in 1990, India wasn’t giving much of a fight to England. Hence Mr. Bedi led by an example and showed everyone how to fight. He fought a fierce battle with Sunil Gavaskar – in media. But given the sad state of Indian cricket, it won’t be a bad idea to make him Indian coach. Maybe the theory of common enemy will work. To all his 267 wickets, to all his efforts to improve team’s fitness in his coaching days, to all his comments on the most destructive weapon to a peaceful life after infidelity – Doosra , his best contribution towards the species called humans came in his comment about John Buchanan “Tell us, John, have you made this Australian team great, or have they made you?”
9. Venkatesh Prasad – By the time he became India’s coach, lot of deliveries that he bowled during his playing days had reached the batsmen. Venky made our bowler expert in bowling those three kinds of balls he himself was an expert – slow, slower and slowest. Venky, who took a vow of non-violence as soon as he decided to become a fast (???) bowler, believed in uniformity. Under his regime, Munaf Patel and Harbhajan Singh proved to be his perfect pupils and achieved same pace – 105 kph. Idolizing Venky, we got many you-can-go-get-married-in-north-Indian-style-before-my-ball-reaches-the-other-end kind of express fast pacers. Praveen Kumar is one. Vinay Kumar is another who showed the world how great nation we are – we are a land of equal opportunities for everyone, I mean everyone. Even Jhulan Goswami, the Padma Shri award winner, attributed her success to Venky saying “Sir Prasad is an inspiration to anyone who wants to bowl superfast. It’s because of him; I can bowl faster than Vinay Kumar, Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar”. No kidding here, she is world’s fastest female bowler.
10. Jeremy Snape – I remember him as a bald off spinner who played ages back for England – in the days when Dinesh Mongia was joining the ranks of Gagan Khoda. So when I saw him years later, sitting in coach’s corner, I was shocked – has the time passed so fast. The thing that struck me most about him was his hairstyle – even after so many years, he didn’t lose any hair on his head. Maybe it was because he never had any. By now, Snape had become a sports psychologist. England drafted him in the side as sports psychologist to improve their performance. Snape’s performance earned him a spot in the England side for T20 WC07. See, anything is possible in this world. Who knows, we might well see Paddy Upton representing India in T20WC12.
11. John Buchanan – No one has described him better than Fake IPL Player. No one has known him better than Shane Warne. No one has asked a better question about him than Bishan Singh Bedi. But John has always been THE coach and will always be THE coach. That is why he is in this team – to coach. Maybe he can play as well. He is known to have brought new dimensions to the world of coaching. Be it his methods of reciting poems in the dressing room – imagine him singing Ba Ba Black Sheep to Mohammad Asif in Pakistan’s dressing room. Or be it his multiple captain theory for KKR in IPL2 – maybe Pakistan took a leaf out of it and didn’t consider appointing a captain for WC11, although they finally did make Afridi their captain.
John Buchanan’s contribution in bringing Ashes back to its life cannot be forgotten by the world (and not forgiven by Australians). He single handedly won it for England – it was the same hand which didn’t pick up the ball on which Glen McGrath slipped. Rest is history. I hope BCCI appoints him as India’s coach and Vinay Kumar slips on one of the balls he doesn’t pick up. Hope he sings Tune mera doodh piya hai tu bilkul mere jaisa hoga in the dressing room for Sir Ravindra Jadeja and he becomes a successful coach like John.
PS: Pun intended. Please don’t sue me.