Extraordinary performer
Ambika Sharma

If Better is Possible
by John Buchanan. Pages 252. Rs 295.

If Better is PossibleWHILE there is no sure-short formula to success, victories in cricket are attributed to the adaptability of a coach to a team and how well the former comprehends their capabilities. It is a well thought-out combination of the two, which can deliver and also take a team to new heights.

This book has been written by John Buchanan who remained coach of the Australia team for eight years. Responsible for maintaining an indomitable winning ratio of 75 per cent, Buchanan throws light on the strategies that helped the team maintain that impeccable record.

The book has however been released at a time when the image of this top team in One-Day Internationals has taken a drubbing due to controversies over poor umpiring and lack of sportsman spirit. The virtues like character, attitude and the much-hyped tradition of winning need to be redefined, especially after the tour of the Australian team to India early this year.

Buchanan who had earlier coached the Queensland Cricket team at home dwells on no readymade formula for success. While defining winning strategies, he has laid stress on basic traits like character, attitude, winning tradition as the centre to any team’s success.

Having inherited a team, which had been by far the best in the world, it was more crucial to continue that winning streak. Buchanan believed in steering a player to perform to his optimum by targeting to achieve what appeared far-fetched. This alone could enable a player to access his capabilities. Winning games is not just about beating an opponent team but also in trying to meet the expectations of the masses, which act as an external pressure, fuelling a team’s performance.

Buchanan has made judicious reference of books written on other sports to derive home the various winning strategies. Drawing a liberal comparison about the leadership qualities, Buchanan delves into how each of them made a difference to the Australian cricket. From Steve Waugh’s aggressive encouragement to make the team perform amidst trying situations to Ricky Ponting’s ideology of inspiring all to contribute the essential input and Adam Gilchrist’s determination to perform the best, Buchanan uses their reference to examine what comprises a winning team. If Shane Warne became controversial due to his outspoken approach, it was the Glenn McGrath’s practical move which struck the winning order time and again.

The World Cup is every team’s coveted dream. The 2007 World Cup, which finds a particular reference, had it’s fair share of injuries, controversy over Shane Warne’s positive drug test and other testing times, with the team lacking a full strength. Buchanan describes his experiences using various Tests and ODIs. The controversy over the death of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistani coach, are all part of the 2007 World Cup memories.

So, what is unique about his coaching? He showed an extraordinary commitment to improve the performance of his team and it was for the first time in the history of sports that a methodology of computerised technical support, where each moment of players was not only studied but the information so generated was used to improve the game. Today, this technique is parcel of every game now.

Talking about cricket and the team which set an invincible record of registering 16 consecutive Test victories across six series, spread across four countries, besides retaining the Ashes, Buchanan passionately describes his simple skills of establishing a personal rapport with all team members, understanding their weaknesses and strengths and encouraging them to perform to their optimum as the core to any successful coach. What added to his job was the rich heritage of victories which the team had to its credit.

Buchanan uses simple illustrations ranging from victories of popular teams in other sporting events to even narrating his family instances to lend a practical touch. Using straightforward expressions derived from day-to-day activities, he has succeeded in portraying the role of a coach as one requiring vision, introspection and management.