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Guts and talent don't need coaching: Ex-Test batsman Bruce Francis

December 23, 2011 - Sydney

Former Australian Test batsman Bruce Francis is of the view that players who are talented and have guts to take on the opposition, don't need to be coached or guided on how to play.

"I have never believed in the role. Why? First, success at Test level depends more on guts and mental toughness than overcoming technical flaws. Doug Walters, Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich are just a few of many players who overcame suspect techniques with determination," said Francis in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald.

"Second, I don't believe the Australian coach or the team's batting and bowling coaches have made any difference to the performances of the main match-winners of the past 20 years, such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Adam Gilchrist and Steve Waugh. On the other hand, Mitchell Johnson has had more coaches than a Greyhound terminal, and it hasn't managed to solve his problems," he adds.

"Third, cricket is different. In all the football codes, the coach decides the tactics, strategies and team culture. In cricket, the captain must always be in charge. Australia's captain must frame a vision and culture for the team; motivate the players in the field; decide bowling changes, field placements and declarations; and choose who to cajole or berate. A league or rugby coach can give a player specific instructions on what to do on the field in any situation, but nobody can tell a batsman how to play each ball," Francis said.

Unfortunately, the very title "Australian coach" or "head coach" has raised the importance of the role in the minds of coaches and the media, with the result being that the captain's authority has been steadily undermined, Francis feels.

Making the coach a selector, with joint responsibility with the captain for the day-to-day performance of the team and the development of the team's vision and strategy, will further undermine the captain's authority, he adds.

So if the Australian team's coach has no legitimate role to play either in coaching players or devising tactics, what is left for him to do? I would argue nothing. The job should simply not exist.

That said, I certainly believe the captain needs someone, let's say a chief of staff, to organise things off the field. The chief of staff's role should be to co-ordinate the support staff.

Ironically, I don't think you would need a cricket background to be a successful chief of staff. Former Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse, who controlled arguably the best support staff in the country, would have been a fine appointment.

Cricket should adopt the golfing model. In golf, every player has an individual coach paid for by the player. Most, if not all, of today's top players could turn to someone who has coached them in batting or bowling.

Shaun Marsh could pay Tom Moody when he needed help, and Shane Warne should have paid Terry Jenner rather than receiving unwanted advice from the national coaches.


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