June 10, 2005

Indian cricket the Chappell way

By H Natarajan

The support system for Team India is set to undergo more changes as the players head into a period of adjustment under the new regime. First it was physio Andrew Leipus and then coach John Wright – two people who were with the team for five long years. The latest near the exit door is Dr Sandy Gordon, who - without being an itinerant help - has been an important member of the team’s backup system.

Dr Gordon, who inculcated in the Indian team the visible benefits of the famous huddle, does not find favour with Greg Chappell. This is the first clear indication that the new coach has a mind of his own that he is unafraid to express it. Gordon, incidentally, is part of the MRF Pace Academy, where Chappell, too, has been one of the important overseas visitors. Dr Gordon, a western Australian who worked with the Australian World Cup team of 1999, made waves helping the Indian players during the World Cup in South Africa where he coined the slogan, ‘Now or Never.’

Chappell has recommended to the Board of Control for Cricket in Indian (BCCI) the name sports psychologist/kinesiologist, Dr Charles Krebs.

Dr Krebs is the author of “A Revolutionary Way of Thinking” who overcame a life-threatening experience with amazing will power. His book dwells extensively about the powers of the human brain. Chappell, like many, probably believes that the Indian team is strong on talent but very fragile in the mind. And this is where Chappell may like Dr Krebs to combine his expertise and experience to optimise the unmistakable talents of the Indian team.

Chappell is one of those cricketers who have kept pace with modern methods that enhance sports and sportsperson. He has his theories on physical movement, brain functions, learning environments, organisation, leadership and employs latest research in physiology, psychology, biomechanics, nutrition, and management in his ways of cricket coaching.

Dr Krebs apart, Chappell has also recommended the name of Ian Frazer to the BCCI. Frazer (38), an old associate of Chappell, is trained in Sports Science, Business Administration, Information Technology and Integrative Medicine. Frazer, who played first-class cricket for Victoria, is an expert in the biomechanics of bowling.

The need for a bowling coach has been felt for long, but that recommendation has not yet come from the new Indian coach. Does that mean Chappell feels Frazer can handle the complexities of the bowling coach in a more scientific way leaving the strategy and planning part of the bowlers to himself?

The clamour for a bowling coach, both within and outside the team, has seen names like Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Balwinder Singh Sandhu and TA Sekhar bandied about in the media. Whoever handles the job, there is no doubt that bowling – the fast bowlers in particular – need to be monitored very closely. Almost all of India’s new ball bowler enter as pretty quick bowlers but subsequently lose pace. Neither their strike rate, nor their economy rate or their cost per wicket is anything to be enthused about. And these disturbing stats directly reflect in the team’s performance. Maybe, it has a something to do with the injuries they pick up along the way. Which is why these overworked bodies need to be give rest and respite from the hard international grind. I agree with Srinath’s suggestion that six to seven fast bowlers should be shortlisted by the selectors and rotate them in a phased manner. This makes a lot of sense and South Africa have in the past adopted this policy.

A decision on Chappell’s twin recommendations has not yet been taken as the BCCI has sought more info on the matter from Chappell. The one intriguing aspect of the recent BCCI Working Committee meeting at Kovalam is the decision that the six-member ‘selection’ panel – S. Venkataraghavan, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Jagmohan Dalmiya, Ranbir Singh and SK Nair) that decided on Chappell as coach will “off and on” formally interact with him over the next two years.

BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla said the six-member ‘selection’ panel would ‘‘act as a buffer between selectors and coach’’ and that the coach would communicate to the selectors via the six-man committee. This is quite perplexing considering that Chappell would be sitting face to face with the selectors while the team is picked. Surely Messrs Gavaskar, Venkat and Shastri will not be just couriers as it is made out to be? So what is their exact role? And if they have a bigger role to play in the selection, where does that leave the National selection committee? Whose word prevails if there is a difference of opinion between Chappell and the National selection committee? And what would be the role of “buffer” panel in this regard?

The red tape that has come out of the Trivandrum does not look good at all. Wonder how much it will impede Chappell in his mission to take the Indian team to a higher level.It’s not a comforting thought.

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