x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A limited-overs cricket captain needs his coach's input

As demonstrated repeatedly in American football, input and tactical changes can make all the difference to a team's fortunes, writes Dileep Premachandran.

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2013 file photo, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh yells from thne sideline during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in San Francisco. The Harbaughs, San Francisco's Jim and Baltimore's John, will be the first pair of brothers to coach against each other in the NFL title game. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File) *** Local Caption *** Super Bowl Lookahead Football.JPEG-05a7e.jpg
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2013 file photo, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh yells from thne sideline during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in San Francisco. The Harbaughs, San Francisco's Jim and Baltimore's John, will be the first pair of brothers to coach against each other in the NFL title game. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File) *** Local Caption *** Super Bowl Lookahead Football.JPEG-05a7e.jpg

If you are watching a game of 50-over cricket, or the Twenty20 version, it is a scenario that can infuriate.

Hapless bowlers, already hamstrung by the playing conditions. Batsmen, emboldened by an unequal playing field and minuscule boundaries, doing pretty much as they please. It is a sorry excuse for a contest, with the coaching team that could make a difference not allowed any inputs at all.

Remember the furore when the late Bob Woolmer tried to talk to Hansie Cronje, South Africa's captain, using an earpiece more than a decade ago?

Note too assertions from the likes of Ian Chappell and Shane Warne, who reckon that the coach should be something the team rides to the ground in. The cricket coach is someone who has to shoulder a responsibility while having very little power.

To a large extent, I agree that the on-field captain should take care of the tactical side of things.

In Test cricket. There, even if you have a bad session or four, you can still regroup and find a way back.

In limited-overs cricket, where the game can slip away from you in the space of a Power Play, it is too much to expect the on-field leader to think of most eventualities. You already have coaches. Why not use them?

I watch a lot of American football, a sport where the man on the sidelines is the one calling all the big plays. The quarterback is expected to adapt in times of crisis or when things go wrong, but the blueprint comes from the coach. And the good ones make a heck of a difference.

During the first half of the NFC Championship game, the San Francisco 49ers' offence was stuttering, and the defence nearly non-existent as Matt Ryan made one completion after another.

If it had been a game of cricket, the Atlanta Falcons would have been out of sight by the third quarter.

Instead, with Jim Harbaugh, one of a new generation of brilliant coaches, making the necessary tweaks at half time, the 49ers kept the Falcons scoreless over the final two quarters, while scoring 14 points of their own.

So wary of quarterback Colin Kaepernick's ability to find space and bolt away, the Falcons had no answer to the speed of running back Frank Gore.

These days, it is routine to see teams belt 100 runs or more in the final ten overs of a one-day innings.

The bowling is not always to blame. The playing conditions have made it almost impossible for bowlers to err even marginally, and the on-field captain has no access to the wealth of data that Hawk-Eye or a pitch map gives the viewer.

The coach on the sidelines has all the information. He has no way to communicate it.

You can send a message out with a fresh pair of gloves, but frequent delays are no longer allowed. So even if you spot that a batsman is moving too far across to leg to try to play the inside-out over cover, you can do nothing about it.

Test cricket has its own rhythms, and does not need tampering. Limited-overs cricket is a different beast and needs to be treated as such.

In a Twenty20 game, it is hard enough for a captain to keep abreast of how best to allocate the overs. Expecting him to spot the minor details that would give the team an advantage is unrealistic.

Sure, this is not how cricket was played in the old days. But the cricket played over 20 overs often bears little relation to the longer version.

Ultimately, you want the fans to be able to watch the best possible spectacle. If some coaching inputs help provide that, why not?

 

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