India skipper Virat Kohli
Pakistan soundly beat India in the Champions Trophy final and it's been interesting, to say the least, to witness the aftermath.
Firstly, the Indian coach Anil Kumble resigned. Then the Pakistan players - not surprisingly - were welcomed home as heroes. This was followed by an ICC announcement that Afghanistan and Ireland have been added to the list of Test playing nations, increasing the number to 12.
Kumble's resignation was no great surprise, as he's a strong-minded individual and the deteriorating relationship between he and captain Virat Kohli had reached the stage of being a distraction. Kumble's character is relevant to any discussion about India's future coaching appointments.
The captain is the only person who can run an international cricket team properly because so much of the job involves on-field decision making. Also a good part of the leadership role - performed off the field - has to be handled by the captain, as it helps him earn the players' respect which is crucial to a skipper's success.
Consequently a captain has to be a strong-minded individual and decisive in his thought process. To put someone of a similar mind-set in a position where he's advising the captain is inviting confrontation.
Best advisors are on the field
The captain's best advisors are his vice-captain, a clear thinking wicketkeeper and one or two senior players. They are out on the field and can best judge the mood of the game and what advice should be offered to the captain and at the appropriate time.
The best off-field assistance for a captain is a good managerial type. Someone who can attend to duties that are not necessarily related to winning or losing cricket matches but if done efficiently, can contribute to the success of the team.
The last thing a captain needs is to come off the field and have someone second in command guess his decisions. He also doesn't need a strong-minded individual (outside his advisory group) getting too involved in the pre-match tactical planning. Too often I see captaincy that appears to be the result of the previous evening's planning and despite ample evidence it's hindering the team's chances of victory, it remains the plan throughout the next day. This is generally a sure sign that the captain is following someone else's plan and that he (the skipper) is the wrong man for the job.
India is fortunate to have two capable leaders in Kohli and the man who stood in for him during the Test series with Australia, Ajinkya Rahane. It's Kohli's job as captain to concentrate on things that help win or lose cricket matches and his off-field assistants' task is to ensure he's not distracted in trying to achieve victory.
India's opponents in the final, Pakistan, were unusually free of any controversies during the tournament. They were also capably led by Sarfraz Ahmed who appeared to become more and more his own man as the tournament progressed.
Watching Pakistan's success unfold from Islamabad, it was obvious how much the team's success meant to the fans. While the ICC deliberated on increasing the number of Test playing nations, it's good to see some consideration was given to Pakistan's plight; not playing matches at home.
Right time to resume ties in Pak
It was the right time for the ICC to implement a plan to resume matches in Pakistan and to commence with small steps. In light of the recent instability around the world, it was reasonable to ask; "Is Pakistan the only region that is unsafe for hosting cricket matches?"
On the evidence I saw and from what I was told by people in a position to know the situation, Pakistan's security is much improved from the recent past. Adding Afghanistan (a more dangerous country than Pakistan) and Ireland to the roster, does seem a little premature. The last thing Test cricket needs is more uncompetitive matches. Surely the priority should be to ensure Pakistan and the West Indies, two great contributors to the rich history of the game, are both playing Test cricket to their full potential before expanding the number of teams.
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