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Split coaching for white & red-ball formats the way forward for Team India?

Team India haven't won any ICC tournaments in last one decade, should India try split coaching for white & red-ball formats?

Ranji Trophy 2021-22 to be held in two phases with league phase in Feb-March and knockouts in June, Jay Shah confirmed (©X/Twitter)
BCCI should experiment with split-coaching for diff formats (Images: ©X/Twitter)

Cricket has evolved with different formats emerging over the years, leading to the adoption of split coaching in some countries, where different coaches specialize in white-ball and red-ball cricket. The concept is yet to see the light of the day on a paramount level in India. India only have one man at the helm of affairs for coaching as well as captaincy across all three formats.

Recent success of England in white ball and red ball format, especially after the adoption of split coaching model, has authenticated its credentials. The Test team under coach Brendon McCullum won nine out of first 10 Tests in 2022-23 while under Matthew Mott, England won the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2022. 

Genesis of the idea

This idea was executed for the first time way back in 2012 by England itself when Andy Flower resigned from his position of coach in white ball format. However, he remained the coach for Tests. Ashley Giles was then appointed as England’s coach in ODI and T20 cricket in 2012.

Australia has not yet adopted the split coaching model but they have split the team’s leadership roles across the white and red-ball formats. They won the T20 World Cup in 2021 with Aaron Finch leading the side whereas the Test team was then headed by Tim Paine. 

In 2023, the West Indies also encountered the dual coaching model where Andrey Coley was appointed as the coach of the Test team whereas Darren Sammy coached the ODI and T20 sides. In the recently concluded West Indies vs. Australia test series of January, the visitors achieved a remarkable victory against the Aussies at the Gabba, levelling the test series at 1-1.

The Indian context 

Cricket in India is growing in stature through competitive leagues like the Indian Premier League (IPL) and domestic leagues such as Ranji Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. This has created a pool of diligent and hungry players who are ready to compete with their senior counterparts. 

Since 2013, Team India have not won any major ICC tournaments and have stuck to playing, more or less, the same pool of players in all major tournaments. They have failed to put up a younger and fresher breed of players in said tournaments who have had enough match practice and experience.

The BCCI has also emphasized in their recent interviews on the direction of fielding different teams for Test and T20 cricket at the same time. Accordingly, the players will also be shortlisted based on their affinity to different formats and the players whose skill-sets allign well to be an all-format asset. 

For a full-fledged implementation and execution of this idea with success, India need to vie for multiple coaches in multiple formats. If different coaches are given the authority, it will allow for better time disbursal and grooming of the players with their individual skills.

Experts’ take

Many cricketing legends have also spoken in favour of having multiple coaches in multiple formats. Former England captain Nasser Hussain stated, “A single coach has so much to do and he really has so much on his plate.” He cited the example of Trevor Bayliss who according to him was a great coach in white ball cricket but couldn’t match up in Test cricket. 

Moreover, former Australia coach Darren Lehmann said, “I think split coaches is the way to go in India as well as here. You just can’t be away for 200 days a year. It’s too much for the family and it’s too much pressure on a single coach. I think to get longevity out of your coaches you have to have split roles,” he added.

Way ahead for India

Like England, who have successfully implemented this model, and other teams following their footprints steadily, India also can look to execute this model. Rahul Dravid’s second stint as the Team India coach will come to an end after the T20 World Cup 2024 in June. 

The candidates vetted by the BCCI for the head coach role have similar feedback - an all-format coaching role for a national team is too demanding. Moreover, Team India are all set to face some of the biggest tournaments in the world in the next three years, which will run across the three formats of the game. 

So far, BCCI has displayed openness to the idea of split coaching to manage the workload. India have a great bunch of options in the form of Praveen Amre, domestic stalwart Chandrakant Pandit, who revived Madhya Pradesh to their first ever Ranji Trophy win in 2022; and Anil Kumble, who had a successful red ball coaching stint with India for the role of coaching in Test cricket. 

Given the international playing experience and the experience in coaching and mentoring their respective teams to IPL playoffs, names like Gautam Gambhir, Ashish Nehra and Sanjay Bangar can be considered for the role of coaching in ODI and T20 cricket.

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