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Damien Fleming - Swinging It Right

KKR’s collapse is perhaps due to Buchanan’s unique coaching methods, writes Fleming

Tuesday, May 19, 2022
Anything but regular

In John Buchanan’s book “If better is Possible” it starts by quoting Henry Kissinger, "....take people where they have never been before....." and states in the same paragraph that a coach’s role is to challenge the individual and team and take them outside their comfort zone.

That fitted perfectly when he took over in the Australian cricket team in October 1999 with a group of star players who had just won the 1999 World Cup in England. He felt we were only at Base camp and Everest was there to be conquered. Everest was to take the game to a level not seen with increased run-scoring rates and aggressive field placements.

He saw himself as a Performance manager, analytical and thought provoking. He talked about visions and about challenging the team’s legacy and went about getting the team to buy in. Which they did winning his first 15 Tests in a row.

Not everyone approved of his methods; not at least players like Shane Warne and Michael Slater, who found the coaching style of pushing players out of their comfort zones not sitting well with their personality types.

But a winning percentage of 75% in all games says he was a great match for the group of Australian cricketers playing between 1999 and 2007.

Fast forward to 2009 Kolkata are not going so well. Two wins from 13 games. Only one foreign player has put his hand up in Brad Hodge, with 359 runs at an average of 45 and strike rate of 120. Brendon McCullum looks like he has fallen under the pressure of the captaincy and Sourav Ganguly is averaging under 20.

Ishant Sharma and Murali Kartik have been good with the ball but why hasn’t Sri Lankan mystery spinner Mendis played more in a tournament where spin has played a big part? Put your hand up if you think the KKR are getting their $600,000 dollars worth for Mashrafe Mortaza at the moment! Internet blogs have talked about accusations of a rift between coaches and players alike. It’s a great plot for a movie.

In reality he isn’t the cricketing guru he was built up to be? He is human and his methods commands loyalty from supporters and loathing from his detractors. Does a coach make the team or team make the coach. This is a very grey area. And great team cultures need the right coach with the right team at any given time.

One criticism from some of those detractors was that he brought in too much of his own staff and players. But isn’t that the prerogative as the coach? And he has coached some very successful teams in Australia and Queensland. But in the end you are measured by your team results.

Well results haven’t gone their way despite his brilliant eight year tenure as Australian coach, winning 3 World Cups besides record-breaking wins in Tests and ODIs.

His misses have been his 1998 season in Middlesex and right now the Kolkata Knight Riders. One thing is having a vision but the foot soldiers have to be totally committed and drive it and with only two wins so far in IPL 2009, KKR may look for a more traditional coach in 2010.