Now that some of the raw emotion unleashed at having had our nose rubbed in the ground by Bangladesh and our asses whooped by Sri Lanka has slowly dissipated, it is time for some analysis.
I have observed a persistent tone in some comments on my previous posts: that being that I am perpetually critical of Greg Chappell because I have an axe to grind with the man for his pro-active (to put it mildly) role in the removal of “Bong icon” Sourav Ganguly. So let me, in clear words, with no trace of sarcasm that may be misunderstood, try to explain why I think Chappell has been an unmitigated disaster for this Indian team.
As we all know, Chappell has always been a proponent of “current performance” and not past records. Great. Now let us apply his own criterion on him.
What were Chappell’s job responsibilities?
As a coach, he was primarily responsible for the technical aspects of the team’s performance. Even seasoned stars, who you would think are finished products, develop chinks in their armour and it was Greg Chappell’s job to see either personally or through delegation, that such problems, when and where they appear, were rectified.
Now the facts. Sehwag developed severe batting problems under his watch, much more serious than just a loss of form. Irfan Pathan atrophied away. Sourav Ganguly did some running repairs on his game, but after he was removed from the Chappell influence, forcibly. In other words, Greg Chappell has presided over the cricketing degeneration of some of our most talented players, a loss that cannot be explained by advancing years.
People might say that the blame for this lies with the players –it is unfair to castigate Greg Chappell for it. Perhaps. But Chappell was responsible, in the wording of his designation as a “coach”, for their technical performances and making excuses (some of them valid) for his failure would be something that Chappell himself, if we take his professed ruthlessness at face value, would not condone.
What I mean is that if Chappell was judging some batsman’s performance and the batsman concerned transferred the blame of his poor scores, perhaps justifiably, to his partner running him out a few times, getting impossible deliveries, having miraculous catches taken off him, poor umpiring decisions, too much pressure when he came to bat, bad state of the pitch —would Chappell say “I understand that” or would he say “Sorry. Tough luck. You are ultimately responsible for your own performance. Kindly leave the excuses for your mom”?
The second job responsibility of the coach is the formulation of tactics. Whether it be being part of a patently wrong decision of batting first on a green pitch or unimaginative field placings or the lack of any kind of surprise moves at crucial junctures, Chappell has little to point to as proof of having made a positive contribution as a strategist. Besides of course all that manic shuffling of the batting order: which is often sometimes the easiest way to show some tactical “activity”.
The third job responsibility was man management and creating a cohesive unit. I do not need to mention what a pathetic failure this man has been in that respect. It would have been bad enough had he simply been a passive observer of team dissent. But no, Chappell was himself as an active participant. Just a look at the way the late Bob Woolmer handled a much more volatile bunch of individuals in neighbouring Pakistan should be enough to convince how bad Chappell was. Emotional, angry and taking himself way too seriously, whether in showing the Calcutta crowd the middle finger or barking at reporters during the post-defeat press conference as if it was he who was the aggrieved one, Greg Chappell left no doubt as to how in times of stress, he became part of the problem than a part of the solution.
And finally motivation. The famous locker room speeches. The rousing background music.
Well at least he tried.
The evening started with medium-fast bowler Sreesanth occupying the centre-stage. Sreesanth’s brother Dipu Santhan had penned and his brother-in-law, Madhu Balakrishnan, a singer in South, had sung a song for Team India-“Jago India” in a video format.
In the video, one of the shots depict a young poor kid, with no cloth to cover his emaciated frame, holding the Indian tricolour and chanting the name Team India.
After the song was screened, coach Greg Chapell addressed the team and asked them to compare the scene with the picture of that old lady who was trying to climb over Wagah border to watch India play Pakistan in a cricket match.
Chappell, while comparing the two visuals, asked every member of the Indian team to remember that there are people in the country who despite their deprivations still support the Indian team with passion and spirit.
Chappell asked the team members to try and play Friday’s game for countless similar Indians who back the team even when they are struggling with their own daily existence.
Chappell then coined a special slogan for the team’s Friday’s clash.
Chappell called it “Let’s do it for each other.“
Maybe the cricketers heard “Let’s do it to each other”. We cannot say. But I give Greg marks for trying. As also for doing a mean Bhangra.
However this is not the first time that Chappell has failed miserably. ICC Champion’s Trophy. Malaysia. The list goes on. However each time we lost, we were told to look elsewhere: at this mythical process that Chappell had got going: a process by which individuals would be replaced by team-players, success and success only would be King and most importantly universal and objective standards would be applied for celebrity and neophyte alike.
This we were told was what Vision 2007 was and armed with management-speak, pyschobabble and De Bono’s hats, Chappell was able to convince many that the chronic losses were irrelevant, player burn outs were inevitable —everything had to forgiven at the altar of the “process” and some pain had to be endured (kind of like how you know that Clearasil is working only when your pimples start tingling) for the land of milk and honey that lay ahead.
This was putting it simply the greatest trick Chappell ever pulled.
Through this hot air about “process”, Chappell had created a masterful “Sikhandi”: if you criticized Chappell, you were criticizing the “process” and the “Aussie” attitude we solely needed. And once the smoke and mirrors of the “process” was firmly in place (with the help of some friends in the media), Greg and his acolytes (principally Kiran More) were left free to pursue battles of personal vendetta and agendas of a political nature. In the process, they subverted the very principles of objectivity and impartiality on which the rational process they claimed to believe in was based on.
Exemplifying. The problem with Chappell was not with his recommendation to drop Sourav Ganguly. It was with him making unsubstantiated statements like ” Sourav faked injury” or engaging in innuendo of the form: “Being captain is essential for Sourav’s finances”. In other words, while the process should dictate dropping a person based on poor performance, it should have nothing to do with dragging that person’s reputation through mud. But when did Greg give two hoots for any process?
The concept existed purely for his convenience.
And now this.
Beleaguered coach Greg Chappell was not happy with the composition of the Indian cricket team for the World Cup, it was revealed today.
Before leaving for the West Indies, Chappell, in an SMS to an Indian journalist Rajan Bala, claimed that senior players in the side resisted the inclusion of younger players and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar sided with the seniors fearing a media backlash in case the young guns failed to fire.
“Even in the last selection meeting, I fought for youth. The senior players fought against it and the chairman went with them out of fear of media, if youth did not perform,” Chappell wrote in his SMS to Bala.
This message was sent to the writer on the morning of the one-day international against Sri Lanka at Visakhapatnam on February 17.
In the same SMS, the Australian observed young stumper-batsman Dinesh Kaarthick had leadership material.
“Kaarthick will be a very good batsman and by the way, he is a potential leader. You are also very right about Yuvi,” Chappell said.
The coach was referring to the Bala’s article in which he had not been very complimentary about Yuvraj Singh.
The writer had written “He might or might not develop to be the country’s best future batsman, but let it be known that the possibility of his not being fully fit during the World Cup cannot be discounted. It is a risk that is being taken.
“The problem with Yuvraj is that he believes he is a star when he is only a rising one.”
Chappell had also confided with the writer that “Suresh Raina is a must. But he was not wanted.”
What kind of process lets the coach of the national team get away, with no censure, by make uncharitable remarks about the people he manages to a press contact? Definitely not the same process by which Rahul Dravid ticks off Sourav Ganguly for getting a SMS from a reporter, where Ganguly was not, in any way, saying anything uncomplimentary about a player or divulging team divisions.
But the most regrettable legacy of Greg Chappell , more than the World Cup defeat or the myopic Vision 2007, is that he has given a few of India’s former cricketers (many of whom peddle their words of wisdom on television channels) a whip to flog foreign coaches with. I saw recently a program on CNN-IBN when the clown, currently known as Krish Srikkanth, worked the audience up with “We need an Indian coach. No more foreign coach” and the audience, in the throes of more than mild xenophobia, applauded and joined voices.
It is transparent to most of us that the reason the Yashpal Sharmas and the Kirti Azads and assorted other has-beens keep harping on Greg Chappell’s “foreign-ness”, as if that is the reason for why he is such a failure, is that these people want the job. And as the crowd falls under the charm of this kind of faux patriotism, what is forgotten is that India’s greatest coach was a foreigner too, a humbler, kinder man than the one who currently occupies the post. A man who performed, a man who took a team ravaged by match fixing and made it, along with Dada, into a formidable fighting unit. A man, who was not without emotion or faults (he once grabbed Sehwag by the collar) but did not send furtive SMS-s to his plants in the media cribbing about his wards or go out of his way to humiliate a player whom he did not want in the team.
Unless his replacement is even worse, once Greg Chappell goes, we may hope that Indian cricket takes a turn for the better .
But what to do about the real culprits for Indian cricket’s decline, the ones who cannot be removed, for whom Indian cricket is a money-making and favour-distributing opportunity, those who are immune to any form of accountability?
We shall talk about them in my next post.