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Damien Fleming - Swinging It Right

Former Australia fast bowler Damien Fleming on ‘the role’ of a modern day coach

Monday, April 13, 2022
Buchanan can’t teach skills

Like the cliché goes, great players don’t make great coaches. John Buchanan did great wonders for the Australian team as we won 75% of our Tests under him. However, I doubt he could have turned around an average team like Bangladesh into a winning one.

The reason I say that is because you can’t expect Buchanan to sharpen the skills of a youngster. The players of Kolkata Knight Riders will have to use the services of the Queenslander to sharpen their non-cricketing skills, like a positive mindset and so on.

The role of a coach in the modern game has changed drastically. He (the coach) does not need to teach a youngster how to bat or bowl. In John’s case, he didn’t have the technical expertise to teach us cricket skills. For example, as a young fast bowler I learned to bowl the slower balls and yorkers thanks to stalwarts like McDermott and McGrath in my team. That’s precisely where Gavaskar’s criticism comes from.

However Buchanan fits in perfectly into the dynamic nature of Twenty20 cricket. He believes in hiring a fielding coach, batting coach, bowling coach and various other people to ensure his work remains the overall management and execution of plans. He likes to oversee proceedings and ensure each and every team member performs specialised tasks.

We had two outstanding coaches in Australian cricket even before Buchanan’s arrival. Geoff Marsh and Bobby Simpson taught us a lot more about the intricacies of the game and the skills of the game when compared to Buchanan.

Buchanan believed in development of individuals and their characters. But his ways of functioning were not accepted by all members of the team. Michael Slater and Shane Warne opposed to his methods and thought he wasn’t a good man manger whatsoever.

Another reason for Buchanan’s incredible success was that he got a lot of financial backing from Cricket Australia (CA). He brought in Mike Young as the fielding coach besides hiring a lot of physio therapists and others in his coaching staff.

But you have to understand one thing very clearly. A coach’s job ends when the toss is out and the game of cricket begins. It can become rather dangerous if he starts to interfere with the on-field activities. Maybe with Twenty20 cricket evolving the possibilities of a coach getting more involved in the game cannot be neglected.

Like in Aussie rules football or American basketball in which the coach’s job intensifies as the game kickstarts. He is constantly involved in decision-making and strategising. Will that ever happen in cricket? Only time will tell. In the current scenario, I still rather have one man, the captain of the team calling all the shots and leading his team

But purists of the game like Shane Warne and Sunil Gavaskar will always oppose to Buchanan’s theories. There is no room for experimentations after a point. Buchanan wants to challenge “the existing parameters and norms, in order to create a vision of life education outside the dressing room.” It is not easily digestible to someone like Warne, who believes in playing the game of cricket without too much fuss and alterations.

After all, the game is still about batting, bowling and fielding. 

- As told to Sai Mohan