Dean Jones has been a prolific Australian middle order batsman of the 1980s. He is best remembered for his double hundred against India where he fell ill and yet continued to play the innings of his life, throwing up several times in the process. His second claim to fame, or rather infamy, is an off the record remark regarding a bearded South African player which was recorded by a live microphone.
Since that humbling incident, Jones has slowly resurrected himself in the cricketing world. He recently announced that he had applied for the Pakistan coaching job and that he believed he was in the short list prepared by the Pakistani committee. From his commentary on television, it seems as if Jones is knowledgeable and passionate about the game. Whether he is a good imparter of this knowledge is anybody’s guess.
The PCB would do well to investigate Jones’ past coaching stints and not just rely on his cricketing achievements. The PCB would also be advised to consider how he would get along with so many of our players on our national circuit that sport beards. On the positive side, Australia has produced some of the best coaches in all sports, such as Harry Hopman in tennis, Charlesworth in hockey and Bobby Simpson in cricket.
That old question: This coach selection exercise is bound to raise the question among old timers as to whether a full time coach, commanding a huge salary, is required at all. Only a few decades ago, the cricket team was led by a captain and there was a manager. At most a physio was added or was hired on site. Now, it seems that the staff outnumbers the team itself and yet the scandals and controversies have escalated big time. What is it that a coach can teach a twenty five year old opening batsman in a short period of time, something that could be beneficial to his game? A lot of times a new coach takes charge of a team, flushed with the zeal to make a difference, after all he is being paid a huge sum for doing so. He runs through the players’ techniques like a bull in a china shop, changing this, altering that. After all he has to show that he is earning his money. The results can often be disastrous.
What the players need more than anything in this nonstop whirl of competition is someone who can keep them calm and relaxed. To change the way they play their game is going to take months of practice. So a manager with some experience of dealing with people and a working knowledge of the sport is perhaps a better option. A little knowledge, particularly in the hands of a coach, can be catastrophic.
Matter of trust: When Mark Spitz set a swimming world record by winning seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics, his team mates celebrated by throwing his coach into the pool. The man nearly drowned because he could not swim! Pete Sampras learned his early tennis from a non tennis playing doctor. Numerous other similar cases exist. What was it that set these coaches apart? Was it that they knew they did not know too much and used simple common sense to train their protégés? Additionally, there was a bond of mutual trust and faith that resulted in a synergistic bond among the teacher and the student. Coaching is not rocket science. It is more man management.
The problem with our local coaches is that they cannot create that bond of trust with the players. There is too much history. Some players think they are being victimized at the expense of others because of the coach’s past relations with some players. Groups start forming and the team begins to unravel. A foreign coach has no such past history and is therefore easier to accept by all players. For that reason, Jones or Dermot Reeve might be considered a good option. But we have to pay a huge price for these coaches, a price that could pay for literally dozens of our local coaches who could train youngsters in their formative years, where coaching is really required. So, perhaps, a no-nonsense, disciplinarian manager might be an option to be considered.
Unseemly saga: The unseemly saga of our match fixing trio continues to cast a pall over our cricketing scene. In a criminal court the other day, compelling evidence was provided linking the three players to the spot-fixing charges. These cricketers now face the ignominy of time in incarceration, a humiliating prospect at best. Three more names were also added, Kamran and Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz.
Kamran had already incriminated himself with the purposely missed run out in Australia and Umar could not have been out of the loop. It is sad to see Wahab Riaz under suspicion as well. He is a strong wicket-taking bowler who might just have harmed his career beyond repair. The PCB would do well to clean up its stables and make a fresh start with untainted players. There seems to be a wealth of talent waiting in the wings and some brave decisions need to be made. Winning or losing is not nearly as important as the nation’s image.
A cricketer’s international career can be brutally short. An injury or loss of form can put an end to it at any time. The PCB would do well to consider a scheme where these ex-cricketers have the opportunity to make a respectable living beyond their cricket. If it is only the mountain top or the abyss, the players will always be tempted to make hay while the sun is shining. Again it is all about management or the lack of it. But then, that is what our country lacks at all levels.