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Whatmore - The answer to 'What next?'
by Gulu Ezekiel
May 21, 2007
It appears certain now that India’s new coach following the resignation of Greg Chappell in March is to be fellow-Australian Davenell Whatmore (born in Colombo).

It is a relief that all the speculation, rumours and innuendo—a hallmark of Indian cricket post-World Cup—have hopefully come to an end.

It is interesting to note that this time around the clamour for an Indian coach to take the reins is notably absent. When Chappell was appointed in mid-2005 he was up against Mohinder Amarnath as well as Tom Moody and Desmond Haynes.

In Moody’s case, India’s loss was Sri Lanka’s gain as they made it to the final of the World Cup. It is anyone’s guess if he could have achieved the same with the Indian team though. Unlike with the sub-continental so-called giants, namely India and Pakistan, the cricketers of Lanka and Bangladesh do not display celebrity airs.

That is understandable in the case of Bangladesh since they have achieved little of note since gaining Test status in 2000. The 2007 World Cup was their greatest achievement but in 2006 too they had a good run, winning 18 of their 28 ODIs, even though puny Zimbabwe were among their victims.

If the benchmark of a good coach (and captain) is how he moulds a weak team, then Whatmore can be well pleased with the way he has handled his current assignment.

Indeed, he moulded Lanka much the same way as they stormed to victory in the 1996 World Cup when few gave them a realistic chance.

India will be another challenge altogether. A team of perennial under-achievers, it is now obvious that ego issues even more than purely cricketing matters was the cause for the great stumble at the World Cup.

The fact that Whatmore’s Test record is pretty modest can work both ways.

With a legend like Chappell in charge, the Indian cricketers found they were up against another super-ego in the coach whose record was such that he was in a position to even dictate terms to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, something that obviously rankled our very own superstar.

On the other hand, when Madan Lal was coach, one batsman who is now a ‘superstar’ on Indian TV pasted the coach’s modest Test record (admittedly superior to Whatmore’s) to the dressing room wall after they had been involved in a tiff minutes before the start of an ODI in the West Indies in 1997.

John Wright was perhaps the happy medium, a player with a decent record but not one good enough to assume an ego of his own.

Talking about TV, it is the electronic medium that has deprived the Indian team of the perfect candidate for the job. Ravi Shastri agreed to handle the side for the Bangladesh tour only as he is contracted to ESPN/STAR.

However, contrary to popular belief it is not monetary reasons alone that have prevented him from taking the coach’s job fulltime.

As the Indian team coach Shastri could in fact earn even more than as a TV pundit. But then in a country where success and failure in cricket is equated with national pride, one would have to be either very foolish or very brave to choose such a high-pressured job over the cool confines of a TV studio. And Shastri is certainly nobody’s fool.

More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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