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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July 2005, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
A coach under the microscope
Rohit Brijnath
Rohit Brijnath: Chappell is a man of method
New India cricket coach, Greg Chappell, must be allowed to do things his way and only then can Indians decide if he is the right man for the job, says leading sports writer, Rohit Brijnath.

India is intoxicated by the arrival on its shores of new national cricket coach, Greg Chappell, and while the anticipation is understandably powerful, any jubilation is possibly premature.

No one dares discredit Chappell, a charming, disciplined fellow who speaks and writes on cricket with a fluent intelligence, and no doubt he is the best man of the candidates on offer.

But the right man for the job should be less statement and more question.

Chappell's impressive accomplishments as player are etched in memory and record books, and his wisdom on the game has been often saluted, but there are no sages, messiahs or saviours in cricket, or in any sport for that matter.

Eventually knowledge must be applied, and progress made (not merely in score line only, but in mindset) before any deification can commence.

Bureaucrats

Anyway, there is too much talk in cricket of men with great minds, and no doubt most are not gainfully employed, for cricket has very few great teams.

Greg Chappell speaks at a news conference to announce his appointment as India coach
Chappell, a man who walks with an erect stance, must bend, too, must be willing to sandpaper his philosophy when necessary as time passes

Chappell owns a reputation as a thinker, but none yet as an international coach. His cricketing past cannot be a vice, but whether it is a virtue we are yet to discover.

Kapil Dev, for all his impressive feats when in white, made little headway as coach; conversely neither Bob Woolmer nor John Wright nor Duncan Fletcher ever flirted with the word "legend" yet have coached impressively. John Buchanan has never even played Test cricket.

Chappell is a man of method, has already sketched a plan entitled "A commitment to excellence", but little will be accomplished if he is not allowed mostly to do things his own way.

Unless he is given adequate freedoms, unless his list of "non-negotiables" whether it be with selection or otherwise is met, unless he is allowed to bring in his own support staff, it will be hard and unfair to judge him.

If coaches must die, let it be by their own sword, not by that of some cricketing bureaucrat who wonders what a "chinaman" is doing on a cricket field.

That said, Chappell, a man who walks with an erect stance, must bend, too, must be willing to sandpaper his philosophy when necessary as time passes.

He has been a visitor to India before, has a passion for vegetable curries, but coaching an Indian team is an examination almost impossible to prepare for.

Cricket is a simple game, but this is a complicated cricketing country. Part of Wright's beauty was his willingness to contribute to India, yet learn from it at the same time.

Patience

Chappell must be granted time, too, must be allowed to find his feet without every slip being chewed on and exaggerated by former players with grating agendas.

There is no known recipe for immediate greatness, and he and the team will take a short while to adjust to each other's rhythm. A new coach does not merit our indulgence, but certainly our patience.

Sourav Ganguly
Chappell holds India captain Ganguly (above) in high regard

Chappell also has a tendency to speak his mind generously, and while reporters will love it, his first utterances on Sachin Tendulkar's future are still hounding him.

There is no reason he should not continue with his columns either, but he must know, too, that each line will be assiduously scrutinised and occasionally less-than-generously interpreted.

He will do well to remember that this is a land of a billion coaches and he is only temporary owner of the official title.

Chappell owns a sense of humour and will be advised to pack it in his bag on his travels; cricket in the subcontinent can be testing, and an easy laugh works many wonders.

He swears, he says, by his daily ritual of meditation and no doubt his sessions cross-legged on the floor will soon be prolonged as pressure builds.

Most of all, he appears a man of disciplines, and if through some osmosis he can transfer that to his team he will be, well, on the right path.

Nothing has damned this present team more than its insipid and indolent attitude when it returned from a break after its impressive tours of Australia and Pakistan in 2002-03.

Momentum dribbled away and they are still paying for it, and such evident lack of ambition was befuddling.

Challenges

This more than anything will be the Australian's most comprehensive challenge.

Greg Chappell is mobbed by the media in Mumbai
Chappell has a contract which lasts until June 2007

Still, Chappell inherits a more professional side than Wright did ("gym" comes ahead of "butter chicken" in their vocabulary), and while the results of an average last year are freshest in the memory, the Kiwi's influence on an unstable, unsure, unsettled, recovering-from-match-fixing side has been terrific.

But Chappell has his own problems.

He must find a role for Sachin Tendulkar, sort out the fast bowling chaos, bring maturity to Harbhajan Singh, ensure Sehwag responds appropriately to the idea that he is India's next leader, get a quick appreciation of India's bench strength and carefully find a solution to the present captaincy mess.

Eventually India's destiny will be determined by the flexibility of selectors, the solidifying of its domestic cricket, the professionalism of its board, the state of its pitches, but Chappell must know the first blame for failure will fall on him. It is the way of sport. He has the job, now he must prove he is the right man for it.

Here is a selection of your comments on this column.


I don't think that Greg Chappell is a good choice as Indian cricket team coach, although he was a very good player. But i think a good player can never became a good coach. We can learn from past like, for example, Javaid Minadad who was a legend in cricket from Pakistan but failed in coaching the Pakistani team. Kepal Deiv a legend all rounder from India also failed as a good coach.
Azam Khan, Pakistan

"India cannot claim to be a good Test side if it has not won a prestigious series abroad in 19 years???" Is Pakistan not abroad?
Harbhajan, UK

I think Greg Chappell is a very good choice as the Indian Coach. I think he will demand that the bowlers become strong and ball fast and that the batsmen play it with a straight bat technique so that they succeed on fast and swinging wickets abroad, where India must succeed to become a great team, something it has not yet achieved. High averages on home soil in drawn matches do not make teams great.
Iftikhar Ahmed, UAE

I think Greg Chappell can take India to next level. Today we compare each thing in cricket with Australia. I am sure in future Indian team will be world beaters under Greg Chappell because India has so much talent than anybody else. But for that Greg should be give full power. He won't be able to work freely with the present BCCI scenario.
Mahender Yadav, India

I believe that Indian team needs to believe in itself, they need to stick with young players. If they are playing against a good team and a boundary is scored of the first ball, straight away the slips come off and they go to short extra cover, and of course the next ball is edged and goes through the vacant slip area and for a four and that doesn't help the bowler. India needs to handle their fast bowlers better and trust their youngsters.
Ravinder Khakh, Canada

Never has been the expectation from a coach more than this time. Earlier we were used to losing and hence did not bother. Then a foreign coach took over and brought some good habits and with that came, few memorable wins. But with John Wright departing and Indian team not in greatest shape, the expectations from Legend Chappell will be more than ever before. Only thing is yet to be seen is how much power he gets from BCCI. I believe he should be given power to choose who he wants so that he can work on his ethics and let the players know, you work hard or you are out.
Dilip, UK

There is little doubt about Greg Chappell's cricketing brain.But applying that on off-field analysis is not same as applying to on-field strategy. But considering his commitment and discipline, he would only do better than worse for the current Indian squad. Best wishes.
Manoranjan, Uk

With your namesake a legend in India and doing well, Ram perhaps we ought not to be too pessimistic at this stage by dismissing another legend trying to lift the spirit of India. Lets face it, cricket in India is religion and religion needs a legend, right? Greg Chappell is indeed a legend who therefore must be given a chance. In this day and age of cricketing 'secularism', let's give our legends the chance to prove themselves. As a lapsed cricketing fan, I'd like to see India doing well again.
Peter Syed, England

A brilliant article by Brijnath in which he explains the need to give the coach more power and say for a better team. The coach has always been reprimanded by selectors when team selection has come into the picture. Consequently, we have never got the best shape of the Indian cricket team in spite of having the best talents. Chappell as coach should get at least the same level of power as team selectors. The selection committee has been previously ridiculed by former legends as a "bunch of jokers". Paying more attention to the coach and respecting his selection procedure would help the selectors shed their image.
Samir Chaudhuri, Toronto, Canada

Lest we forget, John Wright inherited a very powerful Indian team and a history of stunning performances by the team as well as individuals. Most of the Tendulkar-Ganguly opening partnerships, Tendulkar's centuries and one day victories against Australia in Sharjah were not under John Wright. Therefore, let us not put too much on Chappell.
Krishna Narayan Haksar, USA

I personally do not believe in coaches can do magic; even if they are legends, especially in India! Greg Chappell may be one of the greatest Aussie cricketers, yet, he cannot bring consistency to this Indian team. Already the Indian media are portraying Chappell as a saviour, as though he is going to take the ball and bat in the middle on behalf of India. In India there is always too much talk, less on substance, when it comes to real performance. It does not matter who is going to be the coach, still our guys will be battling hard to beat Kenya, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
Ram, India

Greg Chappell undoubtedly has supreme credentials and better still a clear vision of where Indian cricket needs to improve. First of all he must try and win a meaningful series overseas (not Zimbabwe later this year) and to do this India needs to produce a competent fast bowling attack. England and New Zealand (teams inferior in talent to India) both regularly win overseas because of their accurate quick bowlers. India cannot claim to be a good Test side if it has not won a prestigious series abroad in 19 years.
A. Bharat, India

I fully agree that Greg Chappell must be given free rein, without interference from the Indian cricket bureaucracy. And he has started off on a fine footing, with a coaching camp in Bangalore for India's speedsters. India's bowling attack is an embarrassment and Greg Chappell has straightway focused on improving this glaring drawback. Good luck to him.
Chellury R Sastry, USA




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