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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Ajit Wadekar
'Why do you want a guy with no coaching experience at all'
December 03, 2007
Ajit Wadekar, who led India to its maiden Test series triumphs in the West Indies [Images] and England [Images] in 1971, remains the country's most successful professional coach. His tenure as Team India's coach was marked by a string of handsome Test wins that were achieved at home under Mohammad Azharuddin in the early 1990s.
In the following interview with Haresh Pandya, conducted during the Indian Cricket League tournament at Panchkula near Chandigarh, he states in no uncertain terms that he is against having a foreign coach and feels the BCCI should have chosen a better candidate than Gary Kirsten.
So the BCCI has finally found a replacement for Greg Chappell [Images]. What do you think of the appointment of Gary Kirsten as Team India's new coach?
I do not think he has accepted the job as yet. But the BCCI seems to be very keen to have a foreign coach for Team India and that too Gary Kirsten.
You were Team India's first professional coach. The trend of an Indian coaching the national continued till John Wright [Images] came on the scene. And now the BCCI appears to be interested in only a foreigner and not an Indian. What could be the reasons?
Yes, first it was John Wright and then Greg Chappell. But we seemed to have some problems with Greg Chappell and naturally he was asked to go. And then we were without a coach for so long. I do not know exactly why we are so obsessed with having a foreign coach only. My objection is that these foreign coaches do not know the Indian culture. They do not know the psyche of the Indian players and their behaviour patterns. We are so different in many ways. We speak different languages. So it is always difficult for a foreigner to coach the Indian players.
So you are in favour of only an Indian coach, aren't you?
Yes, of course. We have got very good players who had served the country earlier. They have been doing a very good job of coaching at different levels. For instance, Sandeep Patil, who has coached India Under-19, India A and Team India. Lalchand Rajput, too, seems to be doing a good job as the coach-cum-manager of Team India. Then, of course, we have Mohinder Amarnath, who has got all the experience in the world. He can be a good coach.
Chandrakant Pandit is also a good coach in the making. So we have got so many good cricketers who have served the country very well. They have so much experience and they would like to do something for the country again. I mean the BCCI can always get a good Indian player to coach our own team. I do not understand why the BCCI is so keen on having a foreign coach.
Do you think we really need a coach at all, regardless if whether he is an Indian or a foreigner? After all, the national team has been doing quite well without a main coach for the last several months.
I agree with you. In fact, during my playing days we had no coach as such. We used to have a manager only. When we won against the mighty West Indies and England in their own countries in 1971, we did not have a coach. We just had an administrative manager. And it was left only to the captain and the senior players exactly to handle the team. The same thing happened in 1983
when we won the World Cup. Why, only recently we won in England without a coach. And since then we have been doing quite well without a coach.
It appears that if the Indian team has to do really well, I think it need not have a coach at all and that too a foreign coach!
How do you look at the many supporting arms that this creature called coach has to make his task a lot easier?
Of course, they make his task much easier. But then it has become a pattern now. You have got the main coach, then a physio, a trainer, a masseur, a doctor, a computer analyst, a bowling coach, a batting coach, a fielding coach, and what not. So I really wonder what the main coach is there for.
Maybe just to supervise everything! But it has become a fashion to carry a caravan like this with the team. In fact, it has become a regular pattern. And if it comes to that, exactly why the foreign coach also should have his own people and all that. As far as India is concerned, Venkatesh Prasad has been doing a very good job as a bowling coach. Robin Singh, too, has been doing very well as a fielding coach.
Of course, you can't make the Indians absolutely extraordinary fielders. You cannot do that overnight. It takes some time. But Robin Singh has been doing a fine job and our fielding seems to have improved. Our bowling, too, appears to have improved. And then we are playing as a team. So why do you need a coach and that too a foreigner?
Now that the BCCI has finally selected Gary Kirsten, do you think it is the right choice or would you have preferred someone else as a foreign coach?
I certainly would have gone for some other candidate, a better candidate than Gary Kirsten. He has no experience of coaching any international side so far. Let alone the South African team, he has not coached any other side in his own country. So I do not know what kind of experience he is going to bring with him to coach our Indian team. More importantly, when he toured India in 1996 he did not have a good opinion about our country, which is developing, about our people and about the infrastructure we had then. But so much has changed for better in India now. So why do you want a guy with no coaching experience at all and with a somewhat prejudiced mind against our country and our people? If at all we had to appoint a foreign coach, there might have been better candidates.
Who do you think should the BCCI have appointed Team India's coach, if at all, instead of Gary Kirsten?
First of all, I am dead against having a foreign coach. I would have preferred Mohinder Amarnath or Sandeep Patil. Both of them have got tremendous experience. Forget Gary Kirsten, forget any other foreigner, I would have preferred any one of these two. I can never think of any foreign coach simply because I am just not in favour of one.