Dubai: One is a two-time World Cup winner for his country and has just guided his franchise to their fourth IPL title - a tournament which whose impact will be huge on the ongoing T20 World Cup. Another one of the finest batsmen ever for his country who has won a World T20 as player and a third - regarded as one of the shrewdest captains ever for his country as well as up there among their batting greats.
No prizes for guessing, one is talking about the ‘Big Three’ who have taken over mentorship roles for their respective countries on the back of the IPL - MS Dhoni, Mahela Jayawardene and Stephen Fleming. Add to that Shane Bond, the New Zealand fast bowling great and bowling coach of Mumbai Indians, who had been appointed as the bowling coach for the Black Caps before the IPL began.
The culture of appointing former achievers of the game with national teams may not be exactly a new one - but the timing of these three appointments have shown how much importance the respective cricket boards have attached to the clues from the IPL that these three legends can pass on as inside knowledge to their teams. That, of course, is not the only attribute they will bring to the table as they are great motivators of men with their distinctive styles and can infuse the required self-belief for the teams to walk that extra mile.
Another interesting appointment had been that of Matthew Hayden, a multiple 50-overs World Cup winner who changed the definition of a modern day opener and Vernon Philander with the Pakistan team. There is a lot of curiosity value as to how ‘Haydos,’ who is known more as a TV pundit rather than any forays into coaching, can help Babar Azam’s men regain the title which they won once in 2009.
The Hayden-Philander combination have begun work hands-on, giving throwdowns to their batsmen at the net session at ICC Academy grounds and exchanging notes with Saqlain Mushtaq, the inventor of the art of 'doosra,' who is heading the coaching staff.
There are, of course, no prizes for guessing that Dhoni’s appointment was the most talked about in the run-up to the World Cup. There were no end to speculations about the secret behind convincing him to take up this role - suffice to know that he will not be charging any fees for the job (according to the BCCI secretary Jay Shah) and his main focus eventually will be to get Virat Kohli’s men over the line in a major ICC tournament since the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
If the first public gaze on Dhoni in his new avatar during the warm-up game against England was any indication, then it’s clear that he will be as proactive as ever - albeit for an assignment lasting even less than a month. As someone who had acted as the shadow captain to Kohli for nearly three years, the Dhoni-Kohli combination can reap it rich unless there is a breakdown in communication.
Speaking about Jayawardene, one can watch the web series on Mumbai Indians to witness how this soft-spoken, diminutive personality can weild such authority in their board room meetings - even with Nita Ambani among the listeners. It is common secret that Mahela had turned down a lucrative offer from the BCCI to take charge after Ravi Shastri and preferred to mentor the Sri Lankan side to come up from the abyss they found themselves in - forcing the team to start from qualifiers.
Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who is assisting head coach Gary Stead during the Black Caps’ T20 campaign, is someone who has been clued on with the transition of the T20 game with his association with the Chennai Super Kings for over a decade now. Soon after stepping into the bubble for New Zealand camp soon after the IPL final, the former New Zealand captain struck an upbeat note about the chances of Kane Williamson-led outfit.
“Coming to grips with these conditions will be the challenge in warm-up games… is going to be very important, and there’s a couple of key games first up so dealing with pressure and starting the tournament well is a priority,” Fleming told New Zealand Cricket. “There’s a little bit of time before my MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine) spot and it’s just a great opportunitvey. We’ve talked for a while about sharing ideas and coming into the camp and watching these players who I’m a big fan of,” Fleming added.
The days of the super coaches are truely here...