At the end of the 1974-75 Test series against the West Indies, Tiger Pataudi called Aunshuman Gaekwad, in his first international season, for a drink. Gaekwad grabbed the opportunity and that evening gathered the courage to ask him, “Why did you not give us tips during the series?” Tiger’s reply was stern. “You are playing for India and you should know what to do. If you don’t, then don’t waste my time.”
Times changed and Gaekwad went on to become the coach of the Indian team. “You need a coach now, more than earlier. In our time, there was a huge gap between series and one could correct the flaws. Now you get little correction-time. It is international cricket to international cricket,” says Gaekwad.
In disciplines like football, hockey, basketball or volleyball, the position of a coach / manager is far more powerful. Says hockey stalwart Zafar Iqbal, “There are issues like substitutions and fitness etc.
“Decisions have to be taken in a flash. It is very important to have a coach because he has to keep the team focused and united.
“Individuals have to be brought together to make them a cohesive force. A coach best knows how to make optimum use of an individual. He has to command that respect and also remain a balanced person.”
Football great Bhaichung Bhutia highlighted the significance of a coach in a team game. “He has to work out the strategies, style, approach for each match. A player may not understand, but a coach steps in to make you realise what is best for you. He ensures you function as a team.
“It is not necessary that a good player can be a good coach. Of course, it always helps if you have played the game at a decent level. You need to know the game. In football especially, the entire process and approach depends on the coach / manager,” asserts Bhutia.
A coach’s role in cricket obviously differs from that in other team sports. “In Test cricket, you get time to analyse because of the duration of the format. But you still need a coach for a team to do well. It is not necessary to be a successful player to be a good coach.
“Dav Whatmore and John Buchanan did not excel at the international level as players but they proved to be excellent coaches. You need to manage the team rather than coach it,” says Gaekwad.
Timely advice from a coach can help an individual. “Sachin [Tendulkar] had got into the habit of flicking from the stumps and I had to correct it. He started playing more towards mid-on.
“Rahul [Dravid] was bringing his bat from the second slip. I told him to watch his bottom hand. Anil [Kumble] had cut down his jump before delivering the ball. Little things but you need someone to tell you,” said Gaekwad.
A good coach / manager can make the difference. It is for the team to realise this.