.html> sam's terrain: cricket news, views and controversies

Madan's last chance?

The Indian coach is in trouble. And in quite a deep hole judging from the facts as known today. Madan Lal's tongue has finally got him neck-deep into the gooey stuff. The man has been free with his opinions, most of them of little import, but his attempts to pass the buck for poor performances and divert attention from the skipper have rebounded on him. So serious are things that the man who had ridden the gravy train for a long time for no conceivable reason, may be facing his last few weeks as coach of the Indian cricket team.

Madan Lal has made stupid comments on many occasions. As an expert commentator during the World Cup he provided plenty to laugh about. And one is not only talking of his way of putting things across but also his opinions. As a panelist he could get away with whatever he said but as team coach he ought to have realised that he cannot go about bashing his players and exonerating the one man who should have been given more flak than he was. But this is exactly what he did.

The thrashing that India received at the hands of Lanka in the final of the Asia Cup was the starting point. A day after the final, Madan spoke to a news agency and criticised the players for their attitudes and their inability to make the game more of an even contest. He tried to exonerate Tendulkar by saying that the captain was doing nothing wrong but that he was being let down by the team. This was enough fuel to light a fire within the dressing room. He did not elaborate on what role he could play to improve things but stressed that he and Tendulkar should have freedom when it came to team selection. In other words, he was telling the selectors off as well.

But these comments were mild compared to statements he reportedly made within earshot of other members of the team. Comments like those about Sidhu ("he has just a couple of years left with the team and we should start looking for a replacement") and Jadeja ("he had better decide whether he wants to play as a batsman or a bowler"). He had made extremely deprecatory comments about David Johnson soon after the tour of South Africa. The coach has quite clearly gone overboard and the fallout is now apparent.

Madan has been told off by the manager Professor Ratnakar Shetty. Additionally, an official of the Indian board is on his way to Colombo; the trip is said to be because the playing conditions for the Tests and one-dayers have not yet been received from the Lankan board. But this is clearly a fig-leaf; the real reason is Madan's tongue and there are no prizes for guessing the person who is going to receive a tongue-lashing this time. The players are reportedly extremely annoyed about the comments made by Madan and one cannot blame them; both Shetty and the board official who is flying out will have quite a few ruffled feathers to soothe.

Madan's survival as coach now hinges on India's showing in the Tests and one-dayers that follow. The team has not done as well as it expected to in the three-day tie and this would add to Madan's worries. Of course, one cannot expect a team which is being berated by its coach to go out and fare well. The team was already under sufficient pressure due to the match-fixing allegations and the fallout from it, not to mention their poor record in recent times. An unsupportive coach was the last thing they needed.

Madan may yet escape even if India do not pull it off against Lanka. There are reasons for this. The Indian board officials are known to be an indecisive lot and may not want to create more of a stink than already exists. And Madan has some supporters within the hierarchy so if things can be "adjusted" or "arranged" in typical Indian style, his backers will try and do it for him. Remember, the skipper is on his side.

previous reportnext report