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April 22, 1999


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The can do, will do man

Dean Jones

One of the shrewdest decisions the BCCI has made in recent years was to employ Bob Simpson as a consultant to the Indian World Cup team. I have no doubt it would have upset some of the past Indian greats such as Kapil Dev and Gavaskar, but I can tell you that Bob is one of the best coaches I have played under or seen. He is a great reader of the game, a great tactician and is not frightened to say what he believes is right.

Before I talk more about Simpson's inclusion in the Indian team, I must mention that I have just returned from India after a business trip and I could not believe the lack of confidence in its national cricket team. There is so much apprehension in the air that I would not have believed it if I had not seen it for myself.

There is so much talk about the lack of team unity and team spirit. Added to the fact that everybody in India believes the squad has a poor or inferior fielding team compared to other teams in the world.

Let us get things right. India has a very good chance of winning the 1999 World Cup and even a better chance of making the semi-finals. Why? Well the major reason is that India have a very good batting line-up particularly that Tendulkar is refreshed from a short break. You see, all the Indian batsmen feed of him and grow a foot taller and along the way, find aggression and a new found confidence, and this is particularly true of Dravid and Ganguly.

The bowling is well suited to English conditions. Srinath has had experience in county cricket, Prasad has been very successful on recent tours and Kumble is the number one leg spinner in the world at the moment. But the major component to winning the World Cup or any other one-day tournament is that you have to defend well by aggressive fielding!

Simpson has not been frightened in coming forward to say it as he sees it. He has already told the press that the team has "no concentration, aggression nor responsibility." He also mentions the team is very reactive instead of being pro-active. This is no different to what Simmo mentioned to Allan Border's Australian team in the mid 80's.

So what will Simmo do? Firstly, let me tell you about team spirit. If a team fields badly or is very inconsistent in the field, then this proves to me there is a `team spirit` problem. Simmo is aware of this, so he implements a strategic plan to improve team spirit, with a series of rules: Rule 1:No mobile phones in the team change rooms. The reason being to make every player pay complete attention to the team's goals and performance, without any distractions.

Rule 2: No personal stereos and head phones is allowed on the team bus or in the change rooms. It is amazing how many players put headphones on and are not bothered to talk to the team-mate in the next seat, or the next room, to find out how he is doing. Team spirit is about communication showing care towards your team-mate, and that is one area Simpson focusses on.

Rule 3: There will be a Fines Committee set up, consisting of a chairman and two committee men presiding over little fines for lateness, stupid things said or done. This is a great tool to get everyone together, and a place to keep reinforcing teams goals and objectives.

The major area India will benefit from Simpson is that he is the best fielding coach going around. He is a great hitter of the ball during fielding drills -- knowing every team member's strengths and weakness, he will push everyone to their limits and more. Simpson believes you have to love your fielding just like you love your batting and bowling, he wants players to "show off" in the field, show the fans how good an arm you have over 70 metres.

Another criticism of the Indian team is that too many players have been spending too much time on `off field' activities or product endorsement. Simpson has never been against players making money out of the game, but when it overflows into the team objectives and agenda, he will be all over the player like a rash.

If a player is not pulling his weight, Simpson in his own way will get that player back on track. As I said, he will not mince his words to anyone! He will be making them aware that a World Cup comes along only every four years. Every player must put their career on the line, or don't play -- simple as that.

If you want to win, then you need team spirit to the max, every player has to be like a brother, or a best mate. If you have to run through a brick wall or run over broken glass --don't ask questions, just do it.

Simpson will get the team together, he will be tough with them and stand no nonsense. How do I know what he is like and what he will do? Simple -- in 1987, Australia was rated 8th in the world, but he made us work hard and come together, with plenty of personal sacrificies being made by each of us. And that helped make us into a tough unit, a winning unit.

And by god, it was worth it -- when you win, the spirit is so high, you don't know who to hug first, who to kiss. By gee, it was worth every effort... and that is why Calcutta has always been a special place to me!

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