Parachute Coaching

Come August and Nepal will play, for the sixth time out of nine, in the ICC U-19 World Cup. If you consider that – at the World Cup – Nepali Colts are pooled along with Australia, England and Ireland, there will be little debate on how important its present campaign at the ACC U-19 Asia Cup. Playing against Pakistan and India at the Asia Cup, in a run up to the World Cup, should be considered a dream preparation for any team.

When Nepal plays Pakistan during the inaugural U-19 Asia Cup, it is but inevitable not to remember their meeting a decade and a few months ago. That had prompted Lynn McConnell to write on ESPNcricinfo: “Nepal may be the location of the world’s highest mountains but their Under-19 World Cup cricketers scaled the cricketing heights with a momentous upset victory in the ICC event in Christchurch today.”

Not many a times do we see such eloquence flowing for Nepal, especially in team sports. But such eloquence was rightly placed. For, Nepal – a minnow, by any means, at cricket – had beaten a team that played at the highest level and had a world cup in its kitty already.

And when the two meet again, it would only be natural for most cricket fans like yours truly to get nostalgic. This time around, the team we have is more or less settled, playing together for around a year now. At such times, the administration has to do as much as possible to maintain the stability of the team.

But that’s one point we always seem to miss, maintaining stability or rather not doing what should be the first thing to do.

When Nepal reached the final of ACC U-19 Elite Cup in Thailand (the tournament that qualified them for U-19 Asia Cup), it was under Coach Jagat Tamata. When Nepal played in Ireland, to qualify for the ICC U-19 World Cup, it was coached by the same Jagat Tamata. Those were both in 2011. Now, when Nepal is playing the Asia Cup, the same Jagat Tamata does not get to go with the team.

 
Jagat Tamata

For ACC U-19 Asia Cup, he has been replaced by Jung Bahadur Thapa, to assist Coach Pubudu Dassanayake. This should not be taken as a criticism of Thapa, but he has been placed in the team (even as a custodian) wrongly.

Cricket Assoiation of Nepal may have a good sounding logic to it: rotation. Rotation sounds good for players – if a team has very good bench strength – but rotation of coaches? It sounds almost absurd. Ask Tamata about the case and he goes blank, not sure if he really should answer the question or not.

Of late, coaching has become heavily reliant on science and technology. But coaching is not a formula based science. One formula doesn’t work in all situations. It needs understanding and caring of human beings. And when it is about working with a team of teenagers, one needs an understanding person in charge. It would be difficult for me to say how understanding or caring Tamata had been. But one thing is for sure, he had worked with the boys long enough to have developed the bonding with them and along with that a sense of understanding players’ capabilities and their needs. If understanding of players’ capabilities and their needs are ignored, there could be no real coaching.

Since Pubudu Dassanayake would be the one making strategies and plans – and given the fact that he is not a permanent in-charge of U19 team – he needed someone who knew the boys well. That would have helped. If this is a short term decision, it is bad. If such short term replacements are going to be a regular decision, it’s even worse.

With due respect to Jung Bahadur Thapa, who was brought in the closed camp less than a week ago, his case is like bringing in a parachute consultant, who has just been dropped in the area of action and is totally unfamiliar with his surroundings. Parachuting consultants has failed worldwide, in development. Some organizations that are not in touch with reality still practice it. How parachuting coaches would help in cricket, one is yet to see.

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