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In football, managers and coaches are an important part of the game. This is less the case in cricket. Traditionally, an overseas tour had a manager appointed to oversee the logistics of the tour and be its public face. An assistant manager sometimes acted as a coach, with the team captain also assuming coaching responsibilities.
In both Australia and England, coaches were not selected for the long term until 1986. India had started down this path earlier in 1971, although a sense of “Indianness” was instilled. in the 1960s by Princely Captain Tiger Pataudi.
International cricket was played less at this time and players had more opportunities to work on technical errors that might have entered their game. In professional (and amateur) domestic play, captains, or their delegates, led the teams. business, both on and off the pitch.
However, first-class cricket entered a new era as commercial sponsorship placed more emphasis on winning. One aspect of this was the increased focus on diet, fitness and nutrition, although this may have been difficult for the bon vivant on the professional circuit to embrace with enthusiasm. Managing all of these developing trends has become too much for one person to manage, the captain, and the role of coach / team leader has emerged nationally and internationally.
In the latter area, countries tended to have a selection panel, the president of which was a powerful figure. This dynamic changed with the arrival of a full time Director / Head Coach. In England, the power was removed completely when in April 2021 the responsibility for selection was given to the head coach, although the captain’s views were being negotiated. It is too early to know if this concentration of power is for the best.
Over the past four decades, an elite group of head coaches has emerged in international cricket. Typically, but not exclusively, they had represented their country in cricket and had graduated to coach their national team through a learning phase of coaching regional teams both at home and abroad. As their reputation grew, they caught the attention of boards of directors in other countries looking to improve the performance of their national team.
England appointed their first away coach in 1999, India their first in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2011 that Australia named one. A South African led India to World Cup victory in 2011, and an Australian led England to World Cup victory in 2019.
Each of these coaches took a different approach to their roles. One approach is to take no action, leaving space for players, especially the captain, to express themselves in a relaxed environment. The coach manages emotions, knowing when to be formal or informal with players, providing a sounding board for concerns that an individual player may wish to discuss in private.
Another approach is to be more technical and theoretical, guided by statistics and performance analysis, seeking improvements in technique through practice. The amount of data available to coaching staff is now significant and is being used to inform strategy and game plans.
This can lead to overcomplicating simple aspects of the game and may prevent players from thinking for themselves and communicating with each other. Some elite players are known to despise the data-driven approach.
A third approach is that of being a relentless task master. Many of those who have tried to be that softened with the experience. Recently, the Australian head coach has been the subject of leaked complaints about his micromanagement, draining intensity and unpredictable mood swings. This led to a reset in the relationship between him and the players.
Essentially, cricket is an individualistic team sport. A coach must establish a strategy and game plans which act as a driving force for the team and which can be executed by both the captain and the players. To achieve this, the relationship between the head coach and the captain must be, at the very least, in tandem. The manager / coach seeks to blend private individuals and team players, givers and takers, established artists and newcomers, trying to create an environment in which, ideally, they can all flourish and s ‘improve both as players and as individuals, helping each to maximize their potential.
High skills are required to coach an international team in three formats – 20 overs, 50 overs and Test cricket. It has become common practice to have specialist batting, bowling and field coaches so that the head coach can focus on keeping the team focused, functional and united, relieving the captain of the pressure. The coach can refine.
A good example of this happened with an Australian bowler on his first tour of England. In the opening test match, his performance was below average. The coach took him to the net, placed two cones on either side of the pitch some distance from the stumps and told him to bowling until he could consistently land the ball between the two cones. because that was the length to go bowling in England. In the next game, the bowler claimed eight out of 10 wickets and a brilliant career followed.
The demand for high performance coaches is increasing, especially with the expansion of IPL, women’s cricket and emerging nations. At IPL 2021, where the relationship between the coach and franchise owners is an added dimension, only one head coach was Indian. Of the 16 head coaches at the T20 World Cup this year, seven are nationals and, remarkably, of the remaining nine six are South Africans.
A coach’s job is all-consuming, lasting for a relatively short period of time per contract, requiring cricket credibility, high quality people management skills and the ability to create a stimulating environment for the team. At the top of the scale, their value is reflected in salaries around the million dollar mark. Cricket coaches now play a vital and important role in contributing to the success or failure of a team in the professional game.