Chappell an Attractive Option
Thu, Oct 7, '04
The region has been ablaze with discussion over news that the WICB is in talks with Australian Test great Greg Chappell to replace the Gus Logie as head coach.
Under the board's new management structure, the head coach becomes a person of great power within the team management. While it remains uncertain whether or not Chappell will be offered or will accept the post, West Indies cricket could do far worse than to secure his services.
If he were to find himself as head coach of the West Indies, Chappell would first have to contend with the inevitable backlash from the "no foreign coach" crowd, which includes such notables as Gary Sobers, Tony Becca, and Gus Logie. This inward-looking thinking has dominated throughout the decade of decline and has led nowhere. There needs to be a better reason to approve or disapprove of a coach than his ethnicity or citizenship.
The fact is, some of the naysayers embody exactly why it is so hard to get a good coach from our arsenal of past greats. Two core issues of baggage and insularity continually come to the fore.
Consider Gus Logie, who was manuovered into the coach's position despite a long history of friction with captain Brian Lara. That friction rendered him completely ineffective, and the oft-denied Lara/Logie feud must surely have been a contributing factor to the low morale reported by ex manager Ricky Skerritt.
Logie's confusing statements in recent days about not having control over selection issues when he himself asked off the selection panel is just more evidence of the embedded confusion.
When Bob Woolmer's name came up the last time a foreign coach was consider, Antiguan Sports Minister Guy Yearwood launched into a hysterical tirade on the issue of a foreign coach, and then promptly put forward fellow Antiguan Eldine Baptiste as a preferred alternative. Sir Garfield Sobers discusses in his autobiography just how much of a factor insularity is, but then admits to taking part in it to get his Bajan brethren Wes Hall selected ahead of a more deserving fast bowler.
With the right person in the job, empowering the coach can only be a good thing. The right person is someone with a proven track record as a player and as a coach, someone who can demand intensity and focus from the players, someone who does not have any baggage left over from his playing days, and someone with no nest eggs to protect. With this in mind it immediately becomes obvious why the three candidates interviewed, Chappell, Bennett King, and Rodney Marsh, were all outsiders.
Greg Chappell would come to the table with no history with any of the players. Sobers suggests this is a liability, but in fact it is an asset. There could be no credible accusations of bias or insularity, nor would any old feuds be rekindled. With a Test batting average of 53.86 - scored at a time when the West Indies pace quartets were terrorizing batsmen around the world - players would have good reason to listen when this man talks.
Logie and Harper were good players but nowhere near this man's class. And with Chappell not having to worry about maintaining good post-contract relations with the often petty regional boards and players union presidents, the players would not have the option to take him lightly.
On the technical front, Chappell has not only kept up with developments in cricket coaching, but has been at the forefront of it, striking a sensible balance between science and reality. Professional cricket is not the game it was twenty years ago, and you cannot ignore the lessons that athletes around the world have learned in that time. At the same time, just a Brazil's footballers have a style of their own, so too do West Indian cricketers, and Chappell makes it clear that he is not a fan of the purely academic approach to cricket coaching.
Taking aim at bio-mechanics, he describes it as "so regimented, structured and complicated, through the principle of bio-mechanics, they had stifled the natural enjoyment, love and understanding of the game so essential at a formative age".
Nor does he dismiss the value of bio-mechanics altogether. Take a browse through his ChappellWay.com Web site and you get a sense of how Chappell views the perfect balance between the use of science and the embrace of natural talent.
This is not a coach who will turn talented young players into cricketing automatons, but rather a coach who can teach talented young players how to focus and to concentrate, and help them become great players. A renowned commentator, a successful coach in his own backyard, and recognized internationally, Greg Chappell has a great deal to offer West Indies cricket. To write him off for reasons like pride or nationalism is simply bad-minded.
Modern cricket is no longer played at the highest levels by semi-professionals taking time off from their real jobs to represent their country. The coaching methods and attitudes that drove the West Indies to the top in the 1970s and early 80s cannot -- and have not -- put the West Indies at the top in the 21st century. At this time, not one of the great West Indian players of the past has a track record at any significant level as a coach.
It's time to stop deluding ourselves that we have anyone from Gary Sobers to Alvin Kallicharran to Vivian Richards who can match what someone like Greg Chappell has to offer as head coach.
The WICB will have to think long and hard about whether they are serious about moving West Indies out of the cellar. They will need to assess whether they have the courage of conviction to do the right thing instead of the popular thing, and they will need to decide whether they want to save money on bits-and-pieces coaches, or to bite the bullet and get the real thing.