Aakash Chopra

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is one of the best thinkers and writers on the game. Find out more at www.cricketaakash.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @cricketaakash

Time to redefine the role of a coach

Imagine being mentored by the likes of Michael Bevan, Stephen Fleming, Shane Warne and Dav Whatmore - Isn't that an exciting prospect, especially for a rookie playing first class cricket and trying to get a look in for National duties. After all, it's not every day that one can grab an opportunity to network with say a Wasim Akram and pick up a trick or two to hone one's skill. The franchisees, on their part, just as they have meticulously picked up the playing line-up, seem to have gone all the way in ensuring that a stalwart tutor the team.

 

Quite unfortunately though, this IPL, just as the past three editions, seems to be turning that noble intention right on its head. With over 50 days of non-stop cricket and a total of 14 matches to play, squeezed in between travelling and managing a few net sessions, where is the time for the coach to evaluate a player's skill and guide accordingly, or for the player to actually make the suggested changes. What it eventually boils down to is a couple of training sessions and that too, only to get into the groove. Yes, a minor fine-tuning is still possible but to expect anything beyond that is unrealistic.

 

Is it then, for instance, appropriate to give complete credit to Whatmore and his staff for KKR's turnaround this season, or in fact, dismiss Greg Shipperd for DD's bad fortunes? Doesn't it necessarily mean that the teams which have done well, and continue to remain in the thick of action, are the ones with a better set of players? It would be fair to say, that a coach's report card is as good or bad as the players at his disposal, since the current structure does not allow a coach the leeway to initiate a process. Yes, he would still be required to provide inputs with regards to strategy and planning but unless he has the personnel to execute those plans to perfection under pressure, he would come a cropper. Hence, it's about time for the franchisees to redefine the roles of their coaching staff in which their duties extend beyond the IPL. Since they're shelling out big money to obtain their services, it is just to use their potential to the optimum. In the current structure, all the franchisees are feeding off the system the BCCI has put in place and seem to be doing precious little to unearth or groom talent on their own. While the presence of their scouts for all domestic T20 tournaments is a given, none of them have gone beyond the obvious and relatively easier way of scouting the talent.

 

Since most of them dream of becoming the Manchester United of the cricketing world, it's worth having a look at how they ensure a healthy feeder line. Man U scouts spot talent when they're barely in their teens or even younger and enrol them in a rigorous program over the next few years to help them evolve as potential Man Utd players. While their state of the art academies work round the clock, no Indian franchisee can boast of indulging in any such process.

 

India possesses a huge reservoir of talent and the BCCI alone can't possibly tap it all. There's still enough room for the franchisees to travel the length and breadth of this country, look for talent and then nurture them, a job that can be entrusted to the coach and his support staff.

While it’s okay to feed on the BCCIs resources, it's only fair for the franchisees to start complementing and even contributing to the structure in place. This may be a gruelling and expensive exercise at the beginning but if invested properly, the returns could be manifolds.

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