by Trevor Chesterfield
As Lalit Modi desperately sought refugee status in South Africa for his security troubled Indian Premier League, Sourav Ganguly was trying to understand the thoughts offered by former Australian coach Johan Buchanan.
As Shane Warne once remarked, Yahaluweni, with Buchanan rhyming with loose cannon, anything that comes out of his mouth is pure drivel and not worth thinking about.
After the latest Buchanan comments on spreading a team’s captaincy, as proposed for the Kolkata Knight Riders and their IPL safari season, Ganguly would not be far behind in agreeing with Warne who didn’t have much of an opinion of Buchanan through most of this first decade of this century.
The gist of lantern-jawed Buchanan’s plan, based on would you believe, women’s hockey of all sports, is to have a team of five captains. Well as hockey in all forms is like football, basketball and that obscenely dysfunctional rugby, a pattern orientated game, you can never hope to equate it with cricket.
So far, Warne has not remarked on Buchanan’s plan of spreading the captaincy load among the Kolkata Knight Riders. Back in February 2008, the leg-spinning wizard gave this belittling comment of what he thought of Buchanan’s coaching methods.
‘And when John Buchanan was in charge … let me tell you, we needed as much common sense around as we could, because I believe the coach had none.’
It is his favourite quote on a list that would fill a small pocket-sized book and followed by another, which might explain, if asked, his thinking of Buchanan’s no so whacky captaincy plan.
‘We had to listen to his verbal diarrhoea all the time. He is just a goose and has no idea and lacks common sense.’
There it is, from the captain/coach of the Rajasthan Royals whose side won the first edition of the Indian Premier League, leading by example and skills. It explains why the Buchanan plan with the Knight Riders is seen as a way to demote former Indian captain Ganguly to the ranks, as did Greg Chappell when coaching India had been seen as a deliberate move to drop the intensely proud and competitive all-rounder.
This may add further explanation to another Warne quote on Buchanan. The one where he said, ‘I’m not a big fan of John Buchanan. I didn’t think he was a very good coach. What was his role? How could he teach someone to play a cover-drive? How could he teach me to bowl? Some people thought he was fantastic and didn’t get enough credit – I found that hard to believe’
In response, Ganguly bitingly ridiculed the idea of having rotating captains by saying, ‘Well, tomorrow I can also ask for four coaches.’
Ganguly says by Buchanan did not consult him over the concept. Buchanan says he did, which creates a contradiction in the camp as they prepare to take the Bollywood road show on Safari.
Yet, don’t quite laugh off the idea. While it may have ingredients of other sports, the feeling is there can be more than one captain in the field. The wicket keeper’s role is one where he is in charge of the fielding side of affairs that allows the captain to concentrate on bowling strategies.
It is a teamwork system and has been around since the early 1960s but rarely discussed outside the dressing room environment.
The late South African all-rounder Eddie Barlow was streetwise enough to use the idea, borrowed from Australia, when captaining Western Province for more than a decade, with astute seniors in Gavin Pful as wicketkeeper, who ran the fielding side of affairs. If you watch a phase of Test play closely enough, you often see the wicketkeeper making fielding adjustments when a new bowler is being used and in discussion with the captain.
What Buchanan has done is brought the backroom theory out into the open and what it now requires is for others to get their heads around this idea. It is neither revolutionary nor maverick as such, but about one or more senior players to using their expertise. His panel consisted of Ganguly, Brandon McCullum, Brad Hodge, David Hussey and Chris Gayle, if the West Indian does turn up for the second version. There is a lot of experience in that quintet.
How often did Ganguly call on other seniors for advice when captaining India? Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar were often not too far away when he sought valued counsel.
Maybe Warne will remain ‘mum’ on the rotation of captains issue as the teams head for South Africa. It comes from an Australian think tank, and he would have experienced it in some form during his formative years at club level. Being a team game each senior player has a role to perform, advice to offer.
Whether the IPL will settle easily into their temporary home in South Africa with their ‘refugee’ status depends on how the players adapt to the conditions. It is a five-week carnival; spread though the country and a logistical nightmare for some. Five main venues and three small ones are being used as South Africa does have the infrastructure to handle the volume of T20 planned.
To suggest Sri Lanka could have hosted the series is overlooking the needs of the facilities as well as support systems. Had Modi been genuinely interested in Sri Lanka as a cheaper option, he would have looked at it. But frankly, the island have only four venues that might accommodate such an operation and only one has acceptable floodlighting.
All South Africa’s grounds have floodlighting systems, and even a small place such as Bloemfontein has a venue and infrastructure support that only Colombo can match. This is a thought that needs to be considered with the 2011 World Cup two years away.
The IPL organisers tell you how they are trading on the Yuvraj Singh image as an attraction in South Africa. His innings against England at Durban’s Kingsmead and the sixes he slapped around that venue on September 19, 2007 during the ICC World T20 event has been part of the pre-tournament hype with clips of the sixes shown in adverts of the tournament.
While Yuvraj’s innings would not though, revive any happy recollections for the England seamer Stuart Broad who suffered most from that thrashing, it is the sort of gimmick that advertising geeks like to exploit.
However, times have seriously changed. Two major security breaches along with the Indian general elections have combined with a rushed decision by the BCCI mandarins, led by Modi, to remove the second edition to South Africa.
What with Mumbai 26/11 and Lahore 3/3, security became a major factor for Modi as the Indian politicians squabbled over security they cannot provide for the elections and the IPL. But there was always a danger here. With money the overriding factor, Modi, when could not get his own way, resorted to hijacking another country’s infrastructure, and thumb his nose at the general elections as an effort to twist the arm of the government. This didn’t work either.
There are other ponderable issues. It means that unless there are special arrangements those Indian players involved may not get the chance to vote in the elections. Legally, it could become a violation of individual rights, but as the Indian chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami points out, the players would need special permission, through the BCCI and the sports ministry. Proxy voting is not permissible.
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