Bayliss no joke
When Trevor Bayliss left his role as England coach after the final Ashes Test, the press gave him a leaving present of a scented candle and some whale music. It was supposed to be a joke.
One of the regular scribes had once suggested that if Bayliss's role was merely to relax players he could be "replaced by a candle, a yucca plant and a CD of ambient whale noise".
It gives an interesting, if not hopelessly flawed, insight into how the modern-day coach is viewed. In exactly the same way the old-fashioned coach is viewed.
To shout and bawl? To get players 'up for it'? To incessantly bang on about technique to the point of an athlete feeling such expectation that his or her muscles stiffen and the brain freezes?
The irony of the joke gift is that relaxing players is precisely what a coach at top-level sport is supposed to do. It should be 80 or 90 per cent of the job. To allow players to feel so uninhibited, so free and happy that they go out and play the way their bodies and minds have been perfectly, naturally honed to do since youth.
A coach who jams a stick into that happy freewheeler is a fool. And those who don't understand that join him. No player should need his technique examined and rebuilt at the top level. If he does, he shouldn't be there. Fans of NFL will know that Pete Carroll, orchestrator of the great Seattle Seahawks revolution, is the epitome of the yucca plant and whale CD coach. His motivation to get up in the morning is to create an environment where players can express themselves.
Of course he coaches here and there but the real skill is coaching players so they don't realise they are being coached. And he critiques them. Again ensuring they don't realise they're being critiqued so as not to cause the sort of cognitive dissonance that could result in a fumble or tactical rick come game time.
Don't talk technique
I had the good fortune to meet Carroll for this book. I studied his methods at the Seahawks. He is a man who absolutely understands that you cannot talk to an athlete about technique when pressure comes. He is more likely to ask about his quarterback's dinner plans than his positioning moments before a crucial play. As Carroll's guru, Glen Albaugh said: "What does the basketball coach say to the shooter when walking up to take the free throw? Nothing. He sure as hell doesn't talk about technique."
Bayliss understands that. Let's look at it in the context of Headingley, just before Jack Leach is about to come to the wicket. Now, does Bayliss take him to one side and start ramming home the importance of moving his feet, getting in line, playing late, soft hands against the spinners? Of course he doesn't. He knows to do that would be catastrophic. The England ODI team is perhaps the most extraordinary example in post-war sport of this method.
The likes of Carroll - and numerous sports psychologists - would refer to this as helping players have a 'quiet mind'. Leach, when he came into that high-pressure situation was calm, collected and quiet. Only when the enormity of what he and Stokes were about to achieve did the noise come, resulting in the run out chance for Nathan Lyon. Luckily for Leach, Lyon, when that ball was flying towards him, was almost certainly thinking "don't drop it, take it cleanly, this is the Ashes".
There is a suspicion that Justin Langer is not man coach who gets it, either. I had once stood behind Langer in a nets session at The Gabba who responded to lighthearted jibes from England fans with the line: you are one grain of sand on my beach of hate.
No doubt because of foibles of the England batting line-up, Bayliss' replacement will be someone who will claim he can solve those technical issues with hour after hour in the nets. He is more likely to compound them. If the man chooses to work on temperament instead, then England are likely to improve.
Sportsbook have priced up the list of candidates and given the level of ignorance as to who, and what, is required, we can well see Graham Thorpe getting the job at 2/1. Likewise Graham Ford at 7/2. Alec Stewart is the candidate for those who think that England's players need to show more passion, perhaps sing the national anthem before play. He's 10/3.
Kohli versus Rohit
There are rumours that Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma do not get along. Rumours, of course, that have been debunked with such vociferousness that the phrase 'doth protest too much comes to mind'. Perhaps the duo have finally cottoned on to them being in a titanic top-bat tussle?
It is undoubtedly a golden age for bettors when one can pick from these two to cop. They renew their battle at Bengaluru on Sunday in the second T20 against South Africa. Kohli is the 12/5 favourite with Sportsbook and Rohit 13/5.
Kohli took honours in the first match and he picked up the man of the match award for good measure. His 52-ball 72 trumped Shikhar Dhawan's 40 from 31. Rohit had been oddly becalmed, striking at 100 for just 12.
With Kohli at the home of his Indian Premier League franchise, the Bangalore Royal Challengers, he will be expected to go well again. But is he value? On two-year form he is is winning bang in line with a 2/1 chance. Rohit's numbers have taken a hit and his win rate suggests he is more like an 11/4 bet.