As Greg Chappell proved, Shane Warne is not the only Australian to trigger controversy via an SMS 🙂 This blogsite has been an ardent supporter of Greg Chappell until the SMS issue surfaced. Since then, a lot of us feel that he has lost the trust of the players and should go. This brings about a bigger question as to what the attributes of a coach are. I’ve tried to articulate what I think are the attributes of a good coach –
Coach should have a clear vision and target
A coach should be able to create a strong vision. He should be able to set clear goals for the team and individual players. For instance, a team goal could be as simple as getting India to the finals of the World cup or beating Australia in Australia. An individual player’s goal could be to get say Yuvraj into the test team. The vision could involve more around establishing the replacements for senior players as they retire. This would involve working closely with BCCI and the selectors to ensure that this vision can be carried through.
The coach should also be flexible. For instance, if your concept of using Pathan as an all rounder batting at No. 3. doesn’t work, you should be flexible enough to try something else. The coach should have the ability to improvise and innovate. In the 1992 WC, New Zealand opened the bowling with a spin bowler and opened the batting with a pinch hitter. Now, that is innovation.
The modern coach has to have the ability to think outside the box. He shouldn’t be afraid to rock the boat if that is what it takes to get it to an even keel.
Experience and Knowledge
Knowledge of the game is very important. You don’t need to be a great player to be a great coach. It has been proved that some of the best coaches in the game have not necessarily been the best players. John Madden, the celebrated NFL coach never played a single game of professional football; Sven-Göran Eriksson was not a great soccer player and John Buchanan had not played more than 7 first class matches. But what all these people have in common is an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the game. They all have this ability to observe and absorb. Recognize, Analyze and Strategize. And these things come with experience. They did not become a top coach overnight, but spent years in the sidelines before they moved into coaching a top team.
A cricket coach not only needs to instill basic cricketing skills such as bowling, batting, fielding and running between the wickets, he needs to figure out what is wrong with a player when things don’t work out and what shouldn’t be changed when the going is good.
The coach needs to recognize the team’s strengths and weaknesses and work on them, just as he works on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Modern cricket coaching has also involved the use of technology to capture ball by ball data and digital video to study these attributes and the coach shouldn’t shun away from them.
No matter how good a coach is, sometimes they do need assistance and they have to acknowledge and act on it. You may need a specialist coach to help in a certain aspect of the game and the coach shouldn’t let ego get in the way of seeking good help. In NFL, you have a head coach, and several assistant coaches – you have a defensive coach, an offensive coach and a special teams coach. Even the quarterback and wide receiver have their own special coaches.
Cricket can take the cue from NFL and have separate coaches for batting, bowling and fielding. Even with bowling, fast and spin bowling are completely different and may need different coaching techniques. But it is up to the head coach to decide if he needs help and act on it. John Buchanan had the insight to hire Mike Young (who was a former baseball coach in the US) to coach the Aussies in fielding and throwing techniques. These are the kind of moves that help in the over all improvement of the team.
Excellent communication skills
The coach needs to communicate with his players effectively. This not only means how to articulate what he expects of his players and explain what they need to do, but to also listen to them and act as their counsel. This is an area where a foreign coach may have problems with Indian players in general. For starters, the language is a problem. Although all Indian players may converse well in English, they are more comfortable in an Indian language (Hindi). And the cultural difference between people from the sub-continent and Western coaches is substantial. Bob Woolmer struggled with this and John Wright had to work around it. I am not sure whether Greg Chappell was ever able to overcome this.
Good communication with the player alone is not enough. The coach also needs to establish a good communication and rapport with both BCCI and the media. More than anyone else, the coach should know what kind of information shouldn’t leave the dressing room. A coach’s unhappiness over the selection and his personal opinion of some players is certainly not one that should leave the confines of the dressing room.
Enjoy the confidence of his players
The players need to recognize that the coach is working for the greater good of the team and the advice he gives is for the improvement of the individual player. This recognition comes with trust. And trust is gained by winning games and getting the right results. If the team isn’t winning, then the coach needs to instill team spirit and self belief so that they can start winning. Trust creates a sense of community and makes it easier for people to work together.
It takes a lot more to gain someone’s trust than to loose it. If Greg Chappell had expressed his opinion to the players directly behind closed doors, he would have still had the trust of his players, but by taking it directly into the media, he has made the coach-player relationship very fragile.