Unlike football coaches who are all usually larger-than-life figures who like to dress up and be seen, cricket coaches are usually happy to remain in the background. (There are exceptions, of course, including some very well-known ones, but this piece would prefer to ignore them.)
India’s Gary Kirsten and England’s Andy Flower are two such low-profile individuals who rarely take part in public celebrations by their teams. Yet, both are credited (by the captains of the respective teams and the players themselves) with having played key roles in the successes of their teams - in Kirsten’s case, in helping make India the world’s top-ranked Test cricket team and in Flower’s case, in helping England retain the Ashes by drubbing Australia 3-1 in the recently concluded rubber.
Coaches have an important role to play in team sports; a team is a bit like an organization and coaches, like good managers (to borrow a thought from Peter Drucker), help ordinary players do extraordinary things or, as is the case in many instances, help extraordinary players do extraordinary things—consistently. There’s a bit of competency mapping involved in this, to use some HR jargon, but also a lot of motivational management and cricketing science.
In India’s case, the issue is made a bit more complex by the debate on whether the country’s cricket team needs a foreign coach or a local one. Foreign or local, this newspaper believes, it has more to do with the approach. Surely, despite the obvious strengths of this Indian team, it is not a coincidence that its ascent to the top came under a foreign coach?
Which is why several experts, both in India and outside, believe it will be a significant loss for India should Kirsten choose not to renew his contract with the team, as some unconfirmed news reports suggested on Tuesday. The former South African player’s contract ends with the ICC World Cup.
If the reports are indeed true, and given the way cricket works in India, it’s only a matter of time before everyone from past cricketers to college students and Bollywood actors to members of Parliament enjoin Kirsten not to leave.
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