A couple of days back Sourav Ganguly, at his patriotic best, came out and said: “We need to have an Indian coach and I am dead sure we have enough talent in the country to find an Indian coach.”
But honestly, he has little idea of the coaching scene in the country. Coaching a state team in the Ranji Trophy counts for little so where should India look for it’s coaches.
Here’s a list of the top coaches in Ranji Trophy: Mumbai’s Sulakshan Kulkarni, Delhi’ Vijay Dahiya, Rajasthan’s Amit Asawa, Baroda’s K Sanath Kumar, Bengal’s WV Raman, Maharashtra’s current coach is Surendra Bhave who took over from Dermot Reeve, UP’s Venkatesh Prasad, Tamil Nadu’s VB Chandrasekhar, J Arunkumar is Karnataka’s batting coach, while Mansur Ali Khan will mentor the bowlers.
Now, how many of them would be good for the post of India’s coach? How many of them are ready to face the intense media scrutiny that comes with the job? How many of them are tactically good enough to lead India to glory? Coaching just isn’t about getting your certification – it’s about understanding not just the players but also their psychology. It’s about setting up the cones and the nets. It’s about doing the boring stuff.
To top it all, India doesn’t have a team coach culture. It has a culture of batting and bowling coaches – you’ve heard of Tendulkar’s coach Ramakant Achrekar, Kapil Dev’s coach Desh Prem Azad and other coaches who have coached individual players. But how many famous/legendary team coaches do you know of?
Have you heard of any coaches who set in place a framework that would help generations of players? We’ve heard of the same in football, in tennis and in almost every sport but not for cricket and certainly not in India. In India, coaches aren’t treated with any real respect – they come and go and have very basic roles to play. They don’t set the agenda, the administrators do.
Ganguly may feel that India has the talent to find a home grown coach for the Indian national team, but then even the manner in which the IPL teams have gone about picking coaches for the league shows that Indians are just not fit for the job.
Only Mumbai Indians (Robin Singh) and Rajasthan Royals (Monty Desai) have Indian coaches. The other coaches are all foreigners -- ranging from newcomers like Stephen Fleming to veteran coaches like Ray Jennings. Robin Singh has plenty of support from the likes of Jonty Rhondes, Shaun Pollock and Kiran More while Monty Desai basically has to support the likes of Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid.
So when Ganguly talks about Indian coaches… who is he really talking about?
Is he talking about retired international players – Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Kapil Dev (no, we do not want to see him as coach again) who don’t want to do the job; guys like Mohinder Amarnath who haven’t done any coaching in the recent past, Prasad who wants the job but it isn't certain he can do well as a head coach, Praveen Amre who has been sidelined by Srinivasan, or others like Anil Kumble have moved into administration. Dravid’s retirement is too recent for him to even be a contender.
You also can’t expect these players to become great coaches right away. Ideally, the way to go about this would be to have an Indian take over as assistant coach for the team and let him do an apprenticeship and then take over as the head coach.
But before that, they all need to do the hard yards in domestic cricket and get rid of their zonal biases. If they have consistent success with a team at the Ranji level – the coaches will be respected even by the big stars. That should be a pre-requisite for the job. We have seen in the past that being a good player doesn’t necessarily equate to being a good coach too.
Of course, there are many advantages to having an Indian coach – he will speak the local language, he will know our idiosyncrasies, he will know many of the young upcoming domestic players and could even point the selectors in their direction and that is where the thought of his biases will fester. Indians, being Indians, will start to say that he is playing favourites; something that you could never accuse the foreign coaches of. Can we really expect Indian coaches to be professional?
The idea shouldn’t be about trying to get an Indian coach, it should be about getting the best possible coach for India and that’s where you Mr. Ganguly, have got it wrong.
Of course, before we can get into all of that, we need to sack Duncan Fletcher (it’s a miracle why he hasn’t been sacked). If a coach sets the tone for a team, then Fletcher’s tone is a sad one indeed. And then we need to find one Indian coach who fits the bill. Just one.