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Foreign Coaches: Will They Last?

It is now confirmed: India is trying to recruit Geoff Marsh as coach to try and revive the country's flagging cricket fortunes. This comes as no
surprise; after Dav Whatmore turned Sri Lanka around and took them to World Cup success, every country appears to think that a foreign coach is the answer to a country's cricketing problems. Pakistan had a fling with Richard Pybus some time back, Sri Lanka are back with Whatmore again after a small hiatus, England have Duncan Fletcher, Bangladesh had Gordon Greenidge and, most famously, South Africa made good progress under Bob Woolmer. It seems to be the in-thing. And, no doubt, after Fletcher presided over England's 3-1 beating of the West Indies, there will be those who reason that this is indeed the answer. Fairly predictable logic.

Indian cricket is in a mess not because of a lack of talent. Indian cricket is in a mess because of internal politics. While this is a common factor in all countries, the subcontinent is ten times worse. There are cases where good players have their careers cut short because this official or that, this captain or that, dislikes them. How a foreign coach fits in with this scenario is anybody's guess.

The reason advanced by the Indian officials is that a foreign coach will be able to work independently of just such forces. An Indian coach, runs the reasoning, would be subject to pressures from here, there and everywhere and would have to yield, at least occasionally. After all, he has to continue to live in the country and rub shoulders with the same bunch of officials; keeping the peace thus becomes more important rather than letting merit take precedence.

On paper and in theory, this sounds very good. An outsider can select players based on ability and build up a team. Whatmore did this. And he did succeed for some time, until he trampled on some fairly powerful toes. After that, it was only a matter of time before he had to book a
ticket back to Australia. His recall happened because the gang that ousted him finally lost power in cricket circles. If this group gains
the upper hand again, he may well be queuing up at an airline office.

Greenidge is another case in point. Nobody doubts his credentials. Nobody questions his ability. Nobody asks whether he is competent as a coach. But the fact remains that when he refused to accommodate some players, his life was made miserable. Finally, he gave vent to his feelings in an interview. Exit one Mr. Cuthbert Gordon Greenidge.

The pulls and pressures in Indian cricket are more intense than in either Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. There are numerous factions, each trying to
push this man or that into the team. The reason why India had a fast (?) bowler named Chetan Sharma in the team is well known. Noel David, a relatively unknown offie, was sent to the Caribbean in 1997 as a replacement for a fast bowler, Javagal Srinath. The reason for this is
also well known. Dilip Doshi had a very short international career because one prominent captain did not like him. Don Corleone would have understood the Indian system very well.

In these circumstances, a lot depends on how powerful the people behind a player are. You can tread on a few toes every now and then. You can even tread on a few more powerful ones on occasion. But it is only a matter of time before there will be pressure from the right (?) quarters and the coach will have to hold his tongue and take in X or Y. And from then on, it is only a matter of time before the coach in question begins to think of greener pastures.

Marsh may or may not do Indian cricket some good. New brooms sweep well and he may bring about some change within the team. But of one thing I am certain: it will not last very long. He will go the way of all flesh sooner rather than later. And it will be a long time before a coach from that part of the world ventures to India again.

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