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Enter the psychologist

The Indian coach, Madan Lal, has never struck me as a particularly intelligent bloke. I have often wondered why he was given this assignment when there are plenty of others, who were more than bits and pieces players, who have demonstrated much sounder thinking when it comes to planning strategy. Of course, it only takes a while to realise that the coach is picked in much the same way the team is and that competence at the job is a secondary consideration.

Madan Lal's latest innovation is indicative of his cricketing capabilities: he wants to recruit a psychologist to motivate the Indian players to perform. I am no romantic and do not ask any Indian player to be motivated just because he is representing his country -- though there are a good many cricketers who swear by their country's colours and give of their best when they are doing a tour of duty under the old flag. The Australians, who are sometimes painted as cricketers without hearts, often speak with great feeling about donning the old baggy, green cap. No, given the climate in India, I do not ask for that.

But I think it is extremely reasonable to expect individuals, who draw at least five times the salary a white collar worker is paid in India, to put in some effort when they are on the job. If they do not, then no psychologist is going to bring about a change; a swift kick in the pants, which even a man of Madan's mental capacity can deliver, would be far more effective. This, of course, would not occur to the coach whose one goal seems to please both the players and the administrators.

There have been occasions when Madan has been on television and been asked what strategy the Indian team would be adopting; he was asked this once in the West Indies and came up with the remarkable reply: "Er, we will try to bowl the other team out for a low score and then try to score some runs, er, and then try to bowl them out again." Comments which would be obvious to all and sundry, even to the mentally handicapped. He was there during the World Cup, not as coach, but as an "expert" commentator and produced several gems of this kind, all of which are an indicator of the way he thinks. A coach who cannot rise above this level of thinking would seem to be more of a handicap than an asset and maybe the psychologist would first have to work on him!

But to return to the factor of motivation: money has become the only factor which drives the Indian team. So much so, that Sachin Tendulkar, whose facade of being the gentleman of Indian cricket has now dropped away, pulled out of the semi-finals and final of the famous Siyaram tournament, one which was played as a benefit for three Hyderabad stalwarts, simply because he was not paid what he demanded. (One is reminded of his mentor Sunil Gavaskar's decision to be a commentator for Star TV in Hong Kong for the 1992 World Cup, simply because he was offered more money by them than Chanel 9 who had made him the first offer; so great is his love for the game that he didn't mind watching on TV provided the cheque was bigger.)

I have no quarrel with people who demand good pay packets; I think a man who does the job should be paid, and paid well. A labourer is definitely worthy of his hire. But what of the man who takes the money and then cannot deliver? What Packer used to say to recalcitrant players bears repeating here: "You have the chance to play well, give a thousand percent and make more money than you ever have before. If you decide that is not what you want to do, a Qantas flight leaves Sydney every day."

Ever since they won the World Cup in 1983, the Indian players have been mollycoddled no end and made to feel as if they are some special beings. It has not occurred to people that they are employed by the board to do a job and paid damn well for it. If they can't deliver then they should be replaced after a reasonable span of time. That is what happens in any competent organisation, one which can hold its own in the world of business. It should be no different with the cricket team.

No psychologist or grand wizard will do the team any good. There is one reason for mediocre performances by good players -- TOO MUCH CRICKET. Let me say that again: TOO MUCH CRICKET. The never-ending saga of one-day tournaments is taking its toll and the Indian team, which is definitely not the best in world cricket today, is merely going through the motions to earn those massive pay packets. It is not only the cricketers who deserve a swift kick in the pants; the board officials deserve more than one apiece. Madan Lal is merely trying to buy time by treating the effect not the cause; he has only motive and that is to keep the job as long as he can. You can resurrect Sigmund Freud and make him the resident psycho-analyst of the Indian team; there will be no difference. Not unless the cause is treated...

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