PRIMITIVE COACHES FOR CONTEMPORARY CRICKET: Does India have the coaching staff to deal with challenges of T20 cricket?

The advent of T20 cricket in the 21st century has transformed the way game is played. Batters today play more fearlessly and are prepared to take risks, as compared to the 20th century where the psyche of batters was geared towards wicket preservation. This has made all things possible – mammoth totals, towering scoring rates, audacious shot making and power hitting to dispatch the ball out of sight. It has not just changed the dynamics of how the game is played but also coaching as it requires expertise. Having international experience of playing in this era is an added advantage if you are coaching a top international team. Otherwise the game has become so dynamic, it leaves the coaches grappling.

India will be playing a lot of T20Is over the next two years with two editions of T20 cricket World Cups scheduled for 2021 & 2022 and two editions of Asia Cup also likely to happen in 2021 & 2022. Men in blue are also scheduled to play over 30 T20I bilateral games until the end of 2022. So there will be a lot of focus on T20 cricket. The question remains – does India have a coaching staff adept at shortest form of the game to support team’s efforts and help formulate a winning strategy? With World Test Championship already underway and ODI championship to commence soon – does India have the coaching staff to help batters with technique when they play overseas and bowlers to be on top of their game?


Comparison: India Coaching Staff Vs Rest of the World

Let us look at Team India’s coaching staff in terms of their own playing experience and compare it with other teams to find out what they are doing differently.

Team India

NameRoleTests#ODIs#T20s#Last Played
INDIA
Ravi ShastriHead Coach801501992
Vikram RathourBatting Coach671997
Bharat ArunBowling Coach241987
Ramakrishnan SridharFielding Coach2001

Ravi Shastri is spearheading the Team India’s coaching staff and has been at the helm for quite some now and is into his third stint with the team. Shastri has good international playing experience having played 80 Tests and 150 ODIs but he played his last international game in 1992. However, he has extensively travelled around the world as a commentator and watched cricket from close quarters. Ravi has specialist coaches in Vikram Rathour (Batting Coach), Bharat Arun (Bowling Coach) and R Sridhar (Fielding Coach) to help him out. The three of them have very little experience playing international cricket and were mediocre players in their time. Although if you were a great player it does not necessarily mean that you would be a great coach but it does give you an edge. None to the members of the coaching staff have any experience of playing T20 cricket even at a domestic level.

Under Shastri India have had series of failures in ICC tournaments including 2015 ODI World Cup, 2017 Champions Trophy and 2019 ODI World Cup. He comes across as someone with playboy type extravagant lifestyle due to which his ability to influence the team members to inculcate values, principles and skills has often been questioned. The perception is that – more than merit, Ravi got the Head Coach’s job because Virat recommended him or rather forced him on BCCI. It is also perceived that he has very little say in strategy or team selection and is more of a yes man to Virat. It can be argued that Shastri lacks capability of a strategist with questions being often raised on team’s decision making, composition and tactical errors on key tours. Inadequacy of Indian batter’s against the moving ball is an age old issue which is precisely what Shastri and Vikram had to work on but poor show in New Zealand proves they have failed. India’s pace attack has been one of the best in the world over the past few years and also the fittest, but the credit for the same goes to former players and IPL coaches, more than Bharat Arun. Ishtant Sharma, say for example, has credited Jason Gillespie for his revival and Jasprit Bumrah has worked with Lasith Malinga & Shane Bond in the IPL. There have been other reports which indicate even the batters approach former players when they are out of form or are facing any issues with their technique.

ESPN Cricinfo did a survey last year on social media asking “Should Ravi Shastri continue as Team India’s head coach?” to gauge the pulse of cricket fans and almost 80% of people responded as No but BCCI decided to give in to Virat Kohli’s request.


Other International Teams

NameRoleTests#ODIs#T20s#Last Played
AUSTRALIA
Justin LangerHead Coach1058412009
Michael HusseyMentor (2020 SA Tour)791851992018
Andrew SymondsMentor (2020 NZ Tour)261981072018
Andrew McDonaldSenior Assistant Coach4932016
Mike YoungFielding Coach
Steve WaughMentor (Ashes 2019)1683252004
Sridharan SriramAssistant and Spin Bowling Coach8152012
Trent WoodhillBatting Coach
Adam GriffithAssistant Coach (CWC 2019)122010
Troy CooleyBowling Coach1996
Ryan HarrisBowling Coach (2019 – SL, PAK T20 Series)2721672015
Ricky PontingConsultant (CWC 2019)168375652015
ENGLAND
Chris SilverwoodHead Coach67202009
Graham ThorpeAssistant Coach1008252003
Jonathan TrottBatting Coach (2020 Pakistan Tests)5268812018
Jeetan PatelSpin Bowling Consultant24432322019
Paul CollingwoodFielding Coach681971482018
Darren GoughBowling Coach (2019 NZ Tour)58159322008
SOUTH AFRICA
Mark BoucherHead Coach147295902012
Enoch NkweAssistant Coach92009
Jacques KallisBatting Coach1663281762016
Charl LangeveldtFast Bowling Coach6721102014
Paul HarrisSpin Bowling Coach    
Justin OntongFielding Coach2281342017
PAKISTAN
Misbah-ul-HaqHead Coach751621622019
Shahid AslamAssistant Coach2000
Younis KhanBatting Coach118265832015
Waqar YounisFast Bowling Coach8726272003
Mushtaq AhmedSpin Bowling Coach52144292007
Abdul MajeedFielding Coach1999
SRI LANKA
Mickey ArthurHead Coach2000
Rumesh RatnayakeAssistant Coach23701993
Grant FlowerGrant Flower67221612010
David SakerBowling Coach2003
Shane McDermottFielding Coach2008
NEW ZEALAND     
Gary SteadHead Coach52006
Peter Fulton [Recently Resigned]Batting Coach2349952017
Shane JurgensenBowling Coach2006
Luke RonchiWicket-Keeping and Fielding Coach4852042020
BANGLADESH
Russell DomingoHead Coach
Craig McMillanBatting Coach    
Ottis GibsonFast Bowling Coach215252007
Daniel VettoriSpin Bowling Coach1132951432015
Sohel IslamFielding Coach2002
WEST INDIES
Phil SimmonsHead Coach261431999
Floyd ReiferBatting Coach68202013
Roddy EstwickBowling Coach1990
Rayon GriffithFielding Coach2003
Trevor PenneyFielding Coach152005


The table above shows that most other top international teams around the world have preferred a coaching staff with rich T20 experience having employed former cricketers who have played T20Is as well other T20 leagues. Having played the shortest format of the game themselves they are well equipped for dealing with its challenges and also its impact on other forms of the game. Teams have also used legendary former cricketers as mentors and consultants from time to time. Australia for instance roped in Steve Waugh as a mentor during 2019 Ashes series and Ricky Ponting as a consultant during the 2019 ODI World Cup. England also brought in Jonathan Trott as the batting coach during the recently concluded Test series against Pakistan and also Darren Gough as a bowling coach during 2019 New Zealand Tour. Lot of teams including Australia, England, South Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh also have different specialist fast-bowling and spin bowling coaches which really helps address specific needs of the bowlers. If you have a common bowling coach who has been a fast-bowler, it becomes very difficult for them to help out the spinners. India and New Zealand are the only countries who have small coaching teams of only 4 members while all other countries have more resources in their coaching setup from Head Coach, to Assistant Coach, to specialist coaches, to mentors. Variety in the coaching staff also helps the teams to maintain a balance, as these days they play so much cricket across three formats with each format having own coaching needs.

Conclusion

It would not be wrong to say Team India has a primitive coaching staff which is not adequate to meet the demands of contemporary cricket. To summarize let me list down the gaps with India’s current coaching staff:

  1. Members of the coaching staff have not played any T20 cricket. T20 cricket is a beast which requires quick turnaround time and high intensity. Someone without first-hand experience of the format would be ill-equipped.
  2. Members of the coaching staff have not played cricket in the 21st century and hence it lacks a new age thinker of the game.
  3. Team does not have a specialist spin bowling coach.
  4. Team does not have a specialist wicket-keeping coach and hence the transition from MS Dhoni to Rishabh Pant has not been smooth. Team could have atleast used a short term wicket-keeping coach to mentor likes of Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson and KL Rahul.
  5. Head Coach Ravi Shastri has been reluctant in employing any short term consultants or mentors. Team’s performance has not been good on away tours especially New Zealand, South Africa and England – former greats travelling with the team on such tough tours will really help the youngsters.
  6. Specialist batting, bowling and fielding coaches have not played much international cricket themselves and as a result appear to be short of ideas. As per reports players have to approach former players for rectifying glitches in technique.


It is very difficult to understand why BCCI despite being the richest cricket board in the world has not been able to equip its team with best coaches in the business. With so much money in their kitty they can virtually employ any former cricketers they want. I hope better sense prevails and BCCI looks into the matter to get Team India some of the finest names from the coaching world.

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