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Coaches must work with their captains



PETER ROEBUCK

A cricketing culture can be compared to a car. If every component is working then the vehicle moves forwards impressively. As soon as one part goes wrong the entire construction grinds to a halt. Then the owner must choose between repairs and the scrap yard. Indians are adept at patching up machines. Sometimes, though, they seem reluctant to change models till the rubber bands have run out.

At present it is hard to tell which part of Indian cricket is not functioning properly. Everyone involved has a distinct role to play. Problems arise when boundaries are ignored. Humility is needed to remain within parameters.

Players must concentrate on scoring runs, taking wickets and winning matches. Now and then the need may arise to take collective action against incompetent administrators. The Zimbabwean conflict arose in part because the established men did not form an association to represent their views. West Indies likewise failed to develop a negotiating structure till it was too late.

By and large the Indian players have focused their energies upon matters of bat and ball. Nevertheless the current group must take the opportunity presented by their achievements to protect their legacy. Sooner or later cricketers in every country realise they must stop acting like pawns and start thinking like knights. Part of Australia's recent success is due to the fact that no time is wasted resolving disputes.

Captain's job

Captains must concentrate on leading their players on and off the field. Their task is to build an enduring spirit and a side that plays to the best of its ability. Naturally their opinions on matters of selection will be considered, not least to avoid them walking into the rooms before a Test match and growling, as Archie Maclaren once did, "Oh, Lord, see what they've sent me this time!"

A captain, though is not appointed for life. He serves at the pleasure of his Board. Sport is for young men. Dictators may remain in power till their last breath. Cricket captains are sacked when confidence is lost.

Coaches must work with their captain. They can assist players, suggest tactics, spot weaknesses in opponents and develop the sort of strategies that helped England to regain the Ashes. They cannot expect to transform a side in a month. Nor they ought to challenge the captain. They belong in the rooms but must speak with authority. Obviously captain and coach must work together. If they cannot, one must be replaced, or both. A wise coach will bide his time.

Tough decisions

Selectors must choose the side without fear or favour. They exist because captains and coaches will worry only about tomorrow and someone is needed to think further ahead. It is their job to take tough decisions such as dropping a senior and loved player whose time is up. In the last few years the Australian selectors have axed Steve Waugh, Allan Border, Ian Healy and, now Damien Martyn. A public outcry followed each time, and on each occasion history has proved them right.

Administrators exist to serve the game. They must protect its health and advance its good name. Arguments must take place behind closed doors. Efficiency, diligence, wisdom and patience must be their trade marks. Like schoolboys, they ought not to be seen or heard.

Indian cricket is coughing and spluttering like an ancient Car. The time has come to check that every part is working. Everyone involved must be given guidelines so that no one strays into another man's territory. Otherwise Indian cricket will presently be at the mercy of gossip mongers and steely opponents.

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