In the last fortnight, we have had three first division league matches here in Madras. The first division one day tournament kicked off in the last week. But the TN head coach was no where to be seen instead choosing the lucrative TV commentary assignment
Tamil Nadu has just had a disastrous season in Ranji Trophy and what does the head coach do. He dashes off straight into Ranji Trophy commentary to leave a true cricket lover completely shocked. With the domestic one day and T20 tournaments coming up, one would have expected the head coach to be watching the local league teams in action in the semi finals and then the final as well as the first division one day tournament.
Instead, he has been enjoying a TV stint at the knock matches in Ranji Trophy. We would have all hoped that his team (Tamil Nadu) would rather be playing the knock outs rather than have the coach do a commentary stint at the knock out stages.
It is difficult to fathom how VB Chandrasekar could skip Palayampatti Semi Finals and Final that took place last week in Madras and opt for the lucrative TV commentary opportunity. Having had a terrible year in Ranji, one would have also hoped that he would have wanted to organise a pre one day/pre T20 camp to try and get the team back together after watching the Palayampatti SF and Final and the local 1st division one day tournament that is currently on this week in Madras.
( Interestingly, Gokulakrishnan was at the ground during those matches ( with Vijay CC being in the SF and then making it to the Final, while TN's fielding coach M Sanjay umpired one of the Semi Finals and hence was also present - in the process getting a chance to take a close look at two of the teams. VB did make it to the league matches at the beginning of the season immediately after his appointment)
For the last two years, I have been trying to talk to the coaches of the state team and almost every time the answer has been that there has been a mandate not to talk. Even the chief of selection committee chose to remain mum ( immediately after VB was chosen as the Head coach) at the beginning of the season when asked for a preview of the season ahead.
However, it seems that the head coach has been provided an exception to this mandate and a free hand to share his views with the media, going by the number of comments and interviews he has given over the last 6months. You have the head coach talk pre season, during season and at the end of a lacklustre performance by the team.
One also wonders the reasoning behind Tamil Nadu choosing to go for a head coach who almost over the last decade has not had a direct coaching stint with any of the state teams though his achievement as a player for TN is commendable.
He was associated with the CSK team for a while but not with the TN state team. In fact, he has not even been involved with the Indian Cements’ first division league teams in terms of coaching.
Obviously, TNCA saw something new earlier this season that they did not over the last decade when VB was very much in the city.
It may be recalled that VB as the chief of the selection committee controversially brought in S. Suresh as the captain of the Ranji team a decade ago when several cricketers in the local circuit believed that arguably Suresh may not have found a regular place in the team during that period. (The story goes that VB controlled the team from outside)
It seems that the same story has come to haunt the players once again. Several sources that I spoke to have expressed displeasure in the way the head coach has treated the players, though this cannot be the sole reason for their poor performance this season. In the middle of the season, you had one of the players who had played a key role last year bidding goodbye to Tamil Nadu cricket. Questions are being raised as to what led to this decision.
Given the hectic Ranji season over the last 2-3months, VB was also not seen in his academy. The budding youngsters at his academy would also be wondering as to when they can insights from him for it is for his brand value that many of the parents choose to send their kids to the VB academy. He was quite bullish well over a decade ago in a 3hour chat I had with him at his house in Mylapore on the prospects of the cricket academy he had just launched. However, in the dozen years since then, not too many cricketers have emerged out of the academy that was launched with a lot of visibility at that time.
If one’s focus is on cricket commentary in the media, then it is difficult to focus on a particular team or academy as a head coach. That is a reason why you have not had Gavaskars and Shastris of the world not get into full time academies or coaching domestic teams.
VB has to decide where his priority lies for there is a lot at stake for the TN team. If his priority is with Tamil Nadu and the state team, he should be spending time this month watching local 1st division (related) matches and organising a camp to get the team ready for the one-dayers and T20 rather than be watching other Ranji teams play. He should also be spending time understanding the players and trying to get the best out of the players.
It is also questionable as to how TNCA permitted VB to undertake a quick stint with the TV commentary between the Ranji and domestic one tourney. Was he not mandated to watch the SF and Final of the First division league? Was he not directed to watch the league one day tournament to get a feel of who are the key players ahead of the domestic one day tournament?
There were 44players playing earlier this month in the two semi finals – a few of whom have had a bad Ranji season, a few are hopefuls for the one day and T20tournaments. What purpose does it serve if the head coach watches other Ranji teams in action instead of watching these prospects with whom he will be spending time in the coming month during the one day tourney?
One had hoped that he would play a pivotal role with the CSK team but that too did not last long.
Dedication to Coaching Career
Despite not having been directly involved with cricket coaching at the state level (age group or any others) for a long time, his appointment earlier this season saw media reports eliciting his credentials.
While it is too early to dismiss off his likely contribution and value to the TN team and the state team could actually come back strong in the one day and T20 tournaments, cricket followers would rather like the head coach to be involved a lot more with the players, analysing their strengths and weaknesses rather than head off for commentary stints, especially given that there is a lot at stake for a number of players here, many have been on the verge of national selection, some are hoping for national calls in the near future.
While coaches like J Gokulakrishnan and TS Mohan have dedicated their careers as coaches (after their playing days), there are others like VB who have not shown that kind of commitment to coaching at the state level ( age group and above), over a long period of time.
We need coaches who are dedicating their careers to coaching and who are tracking and monitoring the players closely so they can provide the value addition that the players look for ( many of the TN players have also had international exposure with them being part of the IPL).
One also wonders why the TN Selectors did not travel this year for away matches ( this was not the case in the earlier year).
A professional Coaching System
TNCA would have to devise a more professional system whereby coaches are chosen based on their commitment to coaching at the state level and their ability to communicate and interact with the players and earn the respect of the players in a way that each of the players benefit, individually, while at the same time the state sees a gradual progression from Point A to Point B ( what ever point A and point B are) over a period of time.
Once chosen, the coaches should be assigned a clearly laid out task and should know in no uncertain terms their roles and responsibilities with the team. They should then be tracked against certain mutually agreed metrics over a period of time. Feedback from players is also important (which it is hoped TNCA would have taken note of this year especially relating to the way the team was handled during the Ranji season and the reasons for the poor performance).
One hopes that given the strong base of league tournaments here, TNCA would leverage this strong fundamentals and translate the potential into a strong Ranji team that could function as a unit in its endeavour to capture the Trophy sometime in the near future.