Duncan Fletcher, New Coach Designate for Team India

Replacing Gary Kirsten as the coach of Indian cricket team wasn’t going to be an easy task but it had to be done. The appointment of Duncan Fletcher as Kirsten’s replacement has sparked off the same controversy yet again and the welcome messages for Fletcher have been far from flattering.

Demanding to know just ‘who is Duncan Fletcher’ from a man who is responsible for the resurgence of English cricket is a little unfair. And when this question comes from someone like Kapil Dev it seems to be in very poor taste. Dev, one of cricket’s greatest all-rounders, wants to see the return of Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad, who were the fielding and bowling coaches before Kirsten came on to the scene, to the national side. He has also asked the same question that every appointment of a foreign coach raises- Isnt’ an Indian good enough for the job?

Sunil Gavaskar and his support for Mohinder Amarnath

Every time an Indian cricket coach is appointed Mohinder Amarnath’s name does the round. While last time it was Kapil Dev who went hoarse shouting ‘Jimmy Amarnath’ this time around it was left to another legend of Indian cricket to pitch for the man known for a million comebacks. Sunil Gavaskar has been tom-tomming Amarnath’s name since the day BCCI appointed Fletcher and has, to put it mildly, not stopped from making an ass of himself on every platform with his reasons for suggesting Amarnath’s name. According to Gavaskar ACC Coaching in Dehradun, Amarnath has risen for the rock bottom so many times that he knows what it takes to be down and how to come up. But isn’t this something that Fletcher would also know for he inspired the English team to beat arch rivals Australia in the Ashes after almost 20 years? But let’s not forget that Fletcher is just a coach and according to Sanjay Manjrekar a coach is only responsible for keeping the dressing room in right spirits. Manjrekar has also said that he doesn’t think a coach is important for it’s the players who do the needful. Well, someone pray tell him then why do we need field umpires for any dodo sitting in front of a television in an air-conditioned room should be able to do the needful? Or why does the game need commentators like him when the viewer can see the ball being smacked over mid-on for a boundary?

Gavaskar even went to the extent of saying that most of the current Indian team comes from the ‘Hindi’ speaking belt and hence, Amarnath, a ‘Hindi’ speaking man, would be able to gel well. By that token why did he as a part of the panel that short listed names zero in on John Emburey and Graham Ford before finally picking up Gary Kirsten rather than push for any Indian name? Gavaskar along with Ravi Shastri and S. Venkataraghavan also selected Greg Chappell when their committee toyed with names like Mohinder Amarnath, Gundappa Vishwanath, Sandeep Patil and Anushman Gaekwad in 2005.

The committee that appointed Kirsten almost rejected him for as he barely had coaching experience. Compare Kirsten relative inexperience with Mohinder Amarnath’s short-lived career as a coach for Bangladesh; a local journalist wrote that Bangladesh needs “a coach with plenty of experience” and “gone are the days when a Mohinder Amarnath would come to Dhaka to train us and then suddenly leave without telling anyone anything after gifting a disastrous result.”

Why a Cricket Team Needs a Good Coach?

Unlike golf or shooting where a player mentally battles himself more than any opponent cricket is a game where one needs to spar with the opposition and its here that a coach or some external help can change the course of a game. To his credit Manjrekar wasn’t over the moon when Kirsten was selected and besides saying that Gary is “a tough competitor” then, Manjrekar now, in the same spirit, says that giving more credit then just lip service to Gary Kirsten for India’s World Cup win would be unfair to Dhoni and his team.

In the end it’s the player who’s out there and deserves all the laurels but if a teacher isn’t doing his or her job no student can perform to their potential in any exam. It is simple statistics once again- look at India’s ODI and Test record before Kirsten, Chappell and John Wright, the first overseas coach we ever had. Now compare that with our record after the influx of these foreign bodies.

The proof of the pudding lies in the eating and even though the quality of Indian cricketers has improved in the last decade let’s not undermine the contribution of the coach.

Duncan Fletcher is someone whom Gary Kirsten holds in high regard. Who knows that perhaps this was a good enough reason to select him, after all Kirsten got most of it right, didn’t he? There is nothing wrong in picking up Amarnath as the coach and who knows he would do a good job but to say Fletcher isn’t as good an option as Amarnath even before Fletcher does anything is incorrect. Stephen Fleming would have been a good option but we can always look at him AD or After Duncan.

If a good coach isn’t responsible for the success of a player or a team then a ‘bad’ coach is definitely capable of ruining a player. Even though Greg Chappell rightfully identified Suresh Raina as the ‘future of Indian cricket’ he nevertheless destroyed some good things like team spirit and Irfan Pathan.

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