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Coaching Criteria
by Partab Ramchand
Jun 10, 2007
In the raging debate of Indian coach vs foreign coach the crux of the matter seems to have been submerged. Is India getting the best coach? Should not that be the focal point? Is he the candidate with an impressive record? Has he produced results? The debate should centre on whether a high profile job has gone to the best candidate, irrespective of whether he is an Indian or a foreigner.

To put it simply, the man with the best credentials, the right experience and qualifications should be the coach. Everything including nationality should be secondary. An aspiring candidate should not be rejected simply because he is an Indian or a foreigner. It is wrong to reject an Indian just because he is an Indian just as it is wrong to reject a foreigner just because he is a foreigner.

Kapil Dev a former Indian captain - and a former coach I might add - has obviously spun out of control in his obsession to see an Indian named as coach. He has said all the wrong things and his logic is not in keeping with his stature. ``The players have never worked with Whatmore so how can they recommend his name," a miffed Kapil told a TV channel the other day. Does anyone have to work with a coach to recommend him? Aren’t the results he has produced enough for an impressive CV?

Okay, so Kapil is a strong advocate of having an Indian coach for the national team and is dead against having a foreigner. According to this skewed line of thinking an Indian who does not quite have the credentials, qualifications or experience should be preferred to a foreigner who is better qualified, has produced the right results and is ready, willing and available. In other words Kapil is willing to settle for second best as coach for the Indian team.

According to Kapil if this trend for having a foreign coach continued ``one day things will be such that Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly will be in contention for the coach's job but would never get it." Yes, if they are not qualified and don’t have the right credentials they should not get it.

For years now I have been irritated by this smug attitude of former cricketers who seem to think that having played the game at the highest level automatically qualifies them to be coaches, umpires,administrators, columnists or expert commentators. Playing the game at the international level just means that they have been good or great cricketers and nothing more. It does not automatically mean that they can make great coaches, umpires, administrators, columnists or commentators. Very different qualifications are needed for all these tasks. Otherwise every international cricketer would be a coach of a national squad, an international umpire or a highly placed official of the ICC.

Kapil’s lambasting of senior cricketers for reportedly lobbying for a foreigner was also out of place. It must be remembered that the current crop have played under Indian coaches – including Kapil Dev – and two foreigners. If in the final analysis they feel more comfortable with a foreigner as coach should not their views be considered? Contrary to what many feel the coach is important for a team to produce the right results. The gentleman cricketer John Wright succeeded because he was good at man management, the high and mighty Greg Chappell failed because he was not.

Similiarly there have been successes and failures among the Indian coaches since Bishen Bedi was appointed in 1990. Ajit Wadekar had a successful tenure, the others less successful. Perhaps it will not be out of place to mention that Kapil, for all his lofty stature as a player was a failure as a coach when he was in charge for a year from 1999. The results were pretty dismal with clean sweep Test reverses against Australia (away) and South Africa (home) and only a narrow 1-0 victory over New Zealand at home to show on the plus side before he had to withdraw halfway through his term because of his alleged involvement in match fixing – a charge of course from which he was exonerated.

Also those who have crying hoarse for an Indian to named as the coach should remember that foreigners have been in charge of the four sub continental teams and overall their record is quite impressive. The aberration with Greg Chappell apart foreigners have produced the right results if one goes by the record of John Wright with the Indian team, Bob Woolmer with the Pakistanis, Dav Whatmore and Tom Moody with the Sri Lankan squad and Whatmore with Bangladesh.

Given the background of Kapil’s outbursts it is interesting to know what Wasim Akram has to say on the subject. The former Pakistan captain has strongly recommended foreign coaches for both Pakistan and India, saying their players felt at ease with overseas experts. "I think the culture in Pakistan and India is such where the players feel at ease with a foreign coach, so I feel that a foreigner can help in a better way.’’ Of course this contradicts directly with the view of Wadekar who has said that an Indian would be better suited for the requirements of the Indian team adding that a foreign coach coming from a different cultural background generally encountered a communication gap while dealing with the team. ``Personally, I believe because of the Indian culture, psyche and varied backgrounds of the Indian players, they can subconsciously form groups. A foreign coach may not be able to understand the nuances or work ethics as well as an Indian coach," said Wadekar.

So there are plus and minus points in appointing `desi’ and `pardesi’ personnel. But surely there can be no minus points when it comes to appointing the best candidate. I rest my case.

More Views by Partab Ramchand
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