( 22 yard Love Stories)
Over a decade has passed since Mr. John Wright took a flight to India to take up a new assignment as the coach of the Indian cricket team. Meanwhile cricket in India has matured from a business to a mammoth industry. Long gone are the days when one could sit back and say, "relax it's just a game" or maybe a consolatory," it's alright, you can't win everyday!"
Today Indian cricket has multiple stakeholders ranging from bollywood stars to business tycoons. Many smaller investors are in fact secretly waiting for BCCI to come out with an IPO so that they can be a part of the billion dollar success story. With investors pouring in money the expectations for Returns is higher then ever before.
In such a situation when every single penny invested in the game is loudly seeking returns the governing body is under tremendous pressure to ensure that no hole is barred. It won't be much on an extrapolation to conclude that the decision to rope in foreign coaches was a measure to demonstrate that the game was heading to an era where Professionalism would supersede patriotism that previously drove the game.
Mr. Wright's appointment was not welcomed by all. The role of the "Indian Coach" was then seen as one that provides post-retirement employment to Indian cricketers. For obvious reasons thus Mr. Wright was seen as an intruder by many influential voices of the time.Whatever be it, Mr. Wright may not have created history but definitely he influenced the format in which the history of Cricket in India would be documented in future.
Post John Wright's arrival in the Indian Cricketing scene a new nomenclature developed to describe eras in Indian cricket. In this new nomenclature two names were used to mark an era : that of the captain and that of the coach. Thus emerged the Sourav-Wright era, The Dravid-Chappel era and finally the Dhoni-Kirsten era. In the days of Sandip Patil, Wadekar or Chandu Borde no one could imagine such a happening! Quite logically so. Before the entry of the foreign brigade the role of the Indian coach was to assist players at the net and to cheer the team from the dressing room. Today the Indian coach has to take up multiple roles like that of the strategist, the Human resource manager, the motivational speaker and definitely the internal consultant. In other words along with the captain he is expected to lead the team from the front.
It is interesting to note that with time even the Indian masses who have forever worshipped the cricketers as demigods have realised the importance of Captain-coach chemistry as an ingredient for a team's success.
When Wright joined Sourav Ganguly , the team undoubtedly was in a bitterly battered state. Shocking match fixing allegations coupled with constant failure had made Indian cricket hit rock bottom . Sourav-Wright ably transformed a limping team to a team to reckon by making best use of their leadership qualities. It is often alleged that in the presence of Ganguly , Wright's role was heavily sidelined but it cannot be denied that Wright understood his role better than his predecessors or as a matter of fact his immediate successor.
John Wright knew well that he was not expected to teach the demi-gods in the team the art of playing the game. He knew exactly when to take up the yoke and when to let go responsibility. In contrast to John wright's accommodating leadership style , his successor Greg Chappell firmly believed that strong leaders had to be authoritative. Chappell's leadership style could had worked wonders in some other organisation but definitely it wasn't remotely suited for the Indian cricket team. It invited resistance from quite a few in the team including the highly vocal captain Ganguly. I am not sure whether the Chappell-Ganguly feud was the first of it's kind, but surely Chappell was the first coach to bring to an end the career of an Indian captain.
After Ganguly's departure Rahul Dravid was ceremoniously given the responsibility to lead the team and thus began the Dravid-Chappell era. Rahul Dravid was definitely not the best candidate at time to do justice to the role but fitted the bill perfectly for coach Chappell . Dravid voluntarily submitted to the aura of Chappell and enabled him to become the soul authority in the team. In the Dravid-Chappell era for the first time ever in India , the Cricket team was being driven by the whims and fancies of the coach. None of the demi-gods in the team dared to speak out against Chappell as they were all aware of the fate of their former captain.
Post 2007 world cup Chappell was sacked from his job and Indian cricket entered yet another phase of intense uncertainty. Coach Chappell's methods had made the players severely low on confidence and moreover the fans had also began losing hope on the team they previously worshipped.
But then the legendary phoenix rises from it's ashes. From within the ruins of the team emerged a new leader in the form of Mahindra Singh Dhoni. A highly aggressive batsman and an agile wicket -keeper, Dhoni, very soon justified why he was made the captain even in the presence of senior players in the team. Under Dhoni Indian cricket team regained the self-confidence that was murdered by Chappell with surgical precision.
In late 2007, when Indian Cricket team was just about faring well with Mahi at the helm, it was decided to rope in another foreign coach. This time it was Gary Kirsten. The whole nation seemed paranoid about Kirsten's selection as they were well aware of the negatives of a misfit coach. Kirsten himself was unsure about how well he would be accepted in the Indian cricket team (then led by two captains one being Dhoni and the other being Anil Kumble).
Gary Kirsten was well aware of Chappell's fate and Wright's following in India. He decided to spend time with the team during a test series before formally taking up the role of Indian Coach.It was then when Gary met Mahi and a new love-story unfolded. The third angle to the story , India`s test Captain Anil Kumble departed soon by retiring from all forms of International cricket in November 2008. Kumble's retirement kick-started the full-fledged Mahi-Gary era.
Gary Kirsten proved that he had educated himself well and was more than prepared to take up responsibility. Coach Gary concentrated on building rapports with individual players. He was definitely more candid than Chappell and more effective than Wright.
The Mahi-Gary chemistry worked wonders for the team. Not only was the team performing unexpectedly well on-field but even off-field players went ga-ga about the leadership. The love story continued to drive the team through all sorts of hurdles en route to taking it to the pinnacle at the ICC World Cup 2011. Such was the magic of the leadership that it was applauded and appreciated by the God himself (sometimes referred to as Sachin Tendulkar).
Gary Kirsten bid adieu after India's historic world-cup victory. Unlike Chappell who had to depart with a bitter note , Gary retired with the good-wishes and support of a billion strong population.
The bottom line is that the role of the Indian Coach can no longer be carried out by someone who is an amateur by attitude. Gone are the days when the Indian coach was more of a sideline figure. The billion strong population that has made cricket in India an Industry today, expects much more from the coach. The Indian Coach is now a public figure by himself and not just a company to the captain at press conferences. To survive he has to perform just like the playing eleven has to. The Billion strong fan following is no longer satisfied by good performances, they want nothing less than winning performances. The question that can't be avoided right is whether Duncan Fletcher the right candidate to take the story forward from here. Not just me, but a billion others are impatiently waiting.