Beer, Chips and Cricket

This is a site about drinking beer, eating chips and thinking cricket. I am not a former player, a television commentaror or a journalist; my qualification to being worthy of hearing is that I drink a lot of beer, eat a lot of chips and think a lot about cricket. The thoughts need not be politically correct and often include colourful language but there will be no deliberate bias towards any player, community or state. I don't care about popular opinion or perceptions and I speak it as I see it.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Hail the new coach - Greg Chappell

It all ended pretty tamely, actually. From the beginning, Chappell was touted as the favorite but the media went and made a big noise about the others. Of course, they were fed newsbytes by many experts / sources / ex-players who probably did not know anything more than what the Chuckster knew about any inside news.

1. Desmond Haynes is a good prospect coz he is a West Indian and the next world cup is in the West Indies. What stupid logic!

2. Amarnath should be the coach coz only Indians can understand the Indian conditions / players well. I don't know what John Wright would say to that but there r fools who still make this comment after 4 and a half years of Wright's tenure. Of course, it is also true that the only way Amarnath was gonna get the job was either as assistant coach or if the argument of "swadeshi vs videshi" obtained a patriotic result from the committee. Thankfully that wasn't so. See, I would love to see an Indian as coach too ... it's not as if the Chuckster has anything against Indians ... The Chuckster just has something against the Indian mentality where sports are concerned.

I agree that Indians top in every field they enter and they have brilliant minds. However, this is not applicable to "all" Indians ... "all Indians" are not brilliant just as "all Aussies" are not tough bastards. When one looks at Indian cricketers, one could count on one's fingertips the number of cricketers (past and present) who could even remotely be called smart. Here I am not talking about speaking english fluently or wearing Armani suits but in the way they think about cricket ... since their field is cricket, "smart" here refers to their being smart in their cricket thinking. Gavaskar and Shastri are two examples that come to mind as two smart cricket brains ... I am sure there r others but the point it ... among the total, such smart ones are very few. Even out of these few smart minds, those capable of taking unbiased decisions are even few ... hmmm, actually I can't think of any right now but give me an year or two and I might come up with some unbiased Indian expert / player.

Don't get me wrong here ... the cricketers' job is to play cricket and Sandeep Patil and Mohinder Amarnath did a great job of it. That is very different from what is their role as coach ... it's like a top notch Software Engineer being made the CEO of a company ... hell, he writes great code ... he would probably make a great CEO. Naah ... that don't happen 99 times out of 100. We have experimented with Indian coaches for many years and there r so many ex-cricketers around that I am sure we could keep experimenting with Indian coaches for the next 100 years ... in the middle, around the 50th year, we might even get an Indian coach who is better than the Moody and Chappells ... the Chuckster says - "Pick the best today ... You buy a Mercedez Benz ... You don't go on buying Indian cars in the hope that one of them eventually would end up being better than a Benz".

Kapil Dev wanted his "boys to go out and have fun". One other ex-cricketer was reported to have indignantly said something to the tune of "the boys don't need a coach ... what is the coach gonna do ... teach Kumble to bowl or Tendulkar to bat? ... the coach has to be a motivator and a friend to the players". The Chuckster's reaction to that is - "abe chootiye ... mooh band kar na". Can we have a law banning stupids from bring shown on TV or being quoted in the print / electronic media please?

It basically shows off the ignorance of people about what a coach's real role is ... I am sure Greg Chappel or Moody or Amarnath himself for that matter had no plans to give Kumble any bowling tips or Tendulkar any batting tips. Amarnath was quoted as having said "Knowledge of working on laptops is not a necessity for a coach" ... welcome to the stone age, guys. Let's give up all this internet - shinternet and go back to communicating through smoke signals ... whenever the Chuckster wants to make an update to his blog, I will send it out as smoke signals (once I learn about them) ... u guys figure out a way of seeing and reading the signals.

Anyway, the Chuckster wanted Chappell and the Chuckster got Chappell. That makes me happy. Now we can see what a man with a brain and ideas can do to this team of windbags. John Wright was a good coach, in my opinion, coz he took the first few steps of bettering the team ... imbibing the concepts of working together and working to a plan. What he couldn't give the team was the mindset to go for higher things, to boldly go where no Indian team has gone before. We are so un-used to great results (note, I am not talking about great individual performances) that we think we did great under John Wright ... that is the advantage that John Wright had. When you are comparing something to the very depths, anything above level ground is good. Hell, compared to Madan Lal, Kapil Dev types, the Chuckster could come up with good looking results as coach.

It is not about motivating the team ... if being among the 11 in a nation of a billion is not motivation enough, it will never come coz ur friendly neighbourhood coach (in the form of brother / father figure) sat down with you and motivated you. It is also not about giving Kumble bowling tips or Tendulkar batting tips. Yes, they can always learn new tricks (I know it sounds scandalous, but even Tendulkar) but the coach need not be the guy to teach them.

It is about managing a team of 14 players, extracting the maximum from everyone and some more, kicking ass when required, and making battle plans for beating up each and every player of each and every opposition team. It is about wondering if Tendulkar would make a better contribution to the team as an opener in Test matches. Even if one wonders and then discards the idea, the point is in wondering. It is about making sure (with a stick in hand, if necessary) that Ganguly goes to an expert, Chappell or otherwise, learns the tricks of tackling the short ball. It is about making sure Ganguly gets enough time in the nets to practice his batting and even more time to practice his fielding (again, a favorite quote of the Chuckster - Fielding is NOT equal to catching) and telling him that a captain who has a knack for picking talent and scoring low scores has a better place outside the 11 then inside it. It is about keeping 3 different plans in mind for who goes in at number 3 based on the situation of the match.

The last point rankled so much in the recent Pakistan ODI series. Dhoni blasted the team to a win at number 3 in one ODI and that is it ... Dhoni comes at 3 come what may for the rest of the matches. I don't have anything against it coz he didn't do badly but come on, the thinking has to change match to match and situation to situation. As a gamble, it was good ... as a strategy, it showed an inability to come up with variations to the original plan.

Chappell is good coz of two things -
1. He is an Aussie so he never would understand he could lose.
2. He thinks a lot so he won't think sending in Dravid at 3 is the best idea irrespective of whether the score is 1/1 or 188/1.

The Chuckster has frequently mentioned in his posts that the Indian team has never aimed for greatness. They are content being good. The reason why the Aussies are 10 streets ahead of the Indians is coz they are never content with the level they achieve. They are ready to push the limits of all borders of possibility and that makes them great. Even when they lose, it is coz they chose to go for a win than a truce ... and they lose in the process. That is what "being an Aussie" means for the Chuckster.

The Indians under Wright / Ganguly have time and again backed out of a slugfest, opting instead to play safe and draw a match (even in that they have not been successful many times). You know what the Chuckster wants to see? A target of 400 in the last innings with one day remaining being chased ... no, wait a minute - let me re-phrase that. The Chuckster wants to see - a target of 400 in the last innings with one day remaining ... and the Indians having no doubts in their mind that they are gonna chase it or die trying. That is what the Chuckster wants to see.

Chappell is on record saying SRT might make a good test opener for India. That is debatable ... but what the Chuckster wants to see is a damn good shot at the idea. What the Chuckster wants to see is someone telling Tendulkar (or Dravid or Ganguly or Sehwag for that matter) - "You don't like the idea ... let me tell you why it is a good idea" ... and then spend a lot of time explaining why it is a good idea and how it could work.

If Tendulkar (or Ganguly or Laxman or Sehwag) is still not convinced, then tell them - "Ok, you don't have to agree with me ... but you still gotta do what I tell you to do ... coz I am the tactician here ... you don't make the battle plans ... I do ... You play cricket ... I tell you how to play your cricket" ... and once the experiment happens, do either of the two - a) Say "Hmmm, I thought it would work ... but u tried ur best and I am convinced now it won't... lets go back to the drawing board" or b) Say "Hmmm, it didn't work ... you know why ... coz you never tried to succeed ... next match you are gonna open again if I see the same kind of application / attitude, I will make sure u never play in any eleven for which I am coach".

Let's freak out, guys! We have such players that we could touch the heavens in terms of what we could achieve. Now we have a coach who, if he holds true to form (the reason why he was selected), can show the way to various possibilities. Surely, there must be some strategy hidden somewhere whereby India can beat Australia 8 times out of 10? If with Sehwag, SRT, Dravid and Laxman in the team, we can't do it, I shudder to think when we will.

I am sure Chappell would have his own views on how to go about the job but these are a few things I can suggest to him off the top of my head -

1. Tendulkar can be told how to bat (I am not talking about gap between bat and pad here).

2. Dravid can be told to keep wickets in ODIs even if he is the best batsman we have today (the best in tests and very good in ODIs) and and doesn't like it. It doesn't have to be only when Ganguly is captain. It depends, not on who is captain, but on whether a "better" option is available or not.

3. Ganguly can be told his field settings are too defensive (better option, of course, is to tell him which field settings would be better).

4. Teach the team at all times - go for a win at all times, even if it results in a loss.

5. Irrespective of what the players themselves think of any decision / strategy, once it has been taken, either the players follow it or they get out. They don't even have to understand the strategy. Let this be very clear to everyone in the team.

Everyone says the cricketers know what to do ... they have played 100 tests and 200 internationals etc. Fact - most of them have no clue. They can run in and bowl ... they can flay a bat and make contact with the ball more times than not. That is the extent of their expertise. The players in the team are not the decision makers. Most of them couldn't make a decision of which pants match which shirt. The coach / captain are the decision / strategy makers. That is why the topic of who the coach is gets so much of importance from the Chuckster compared to other experts who smugly suggest "it is just a coach ... not a messiah ... after all it is the boys who have to go out there and play" ... Chuckster repeating request made earlier - "Can we keep a life ban on the stupids please?".

Finally to close, to those who think having a foreign coach is a blow to our national pride or whatever ... I am glad we are getting an Australian ... not coz he is great ... but coz I know all the Indian contenders were lousy ... while the Indian cricket team could end up as losers under Chappell, it would definitely end up as losers under Ashok Malhotra / Madan Lal / Amarnath etc. Here I have hope.

Cheers

The Chuckster

8 Comments:

  • At Saturday, May 21, 2005 1:01:00 AM, Blogger Satba said…

    Yaaaawn !! zzzzzz

     
  • At Saturday, May 21, 2005 9:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sriram,
    Your articles on the blogs are really interesting to read. I am a regular to your blog and keep awaiting for your postings. I like the manner in which you write your thoughts about the Indian cricket issues. In particular I like your "Say it in your face" approach on certain topics. I like this post of yours very much. Keep up the good job and try and make our postings more regular if possible.

    Steve

     
  • At Tuesday, May 24, 2005 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Harsha V. Madhyastha said…

    You've stated umpteen number of times that if the Indian team cannot reach the top with SRT, Sehwag, Dravid and Laxman in the team, we never will. You seem to conveniently forget the pathetic bunch of fast bowlers we have!

     
  • At Thursday, June 02, 2005 10:23:00 AM, Blogger anantha said…

    Wow! Particularly the one abt Sachin opening.. Would be a nice experiment and a pretty effective one, if u ask me! Will be back....

     
  • At Tuesday, June 07, 2005 6:12:00 AM, Blogger Ani said…

    hey..This is a nice one. After a very long time,I jumped to the first line to read again.
    Good work, Keep writing..
    Ani

     
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