Shah Rukh, methinks you are getting your knickers all up in a knot about Sunny’s barbs at John “Buck” Buchanan’s latest eruption. An eruption like that of geysers at national parks around the world, you know. Ones that shoot out hot air and gases into the atmosphere like clockwork at regularly spaced intervals. And there is another thing you need to know. Our Sunny can get his buttons pushed easily. Especially by all things Aussie. For years, he has been steady in his strong opinions about potty mouthed Aussie teams that Buck coached. But I am (along with pretty much anyone who can spot the differences between cricket and kabaddi) very much on the side of our Little Master (1st edition) on this latest spewage from Buchanan.
But Shah Rukh, you are barking up the wrong tree here. Frankly, you shouldn’t be barking up any tree right now. You should just be counting your chickens before they…or is it the goose that laid….jeez I am getting all tangled up here…I mean, you should be counting your stars of the lucky kind, that you met your coach of the Knight Riders after Chak De India had hit the screens. If Buchanan had been available for you to immerse yourself – a la a method-acting-Raging-Bull-de Niro into the life of a coach as you prepared for your role – those feisty and fightin’ hockey femmes could have been in deep doo doo. And the super-hit flick with you as their stubble faced coach would have sunk without a trace. I am telling you, he would have messed with your chops, man. You dodged one there.
OK, he wants four captains for his team (sorry, your team) now. Something about rotating responsibilities, matrixed expertise, cross referenced talent pools, stretch goals and built in redundancy, he says. What we should make of this, you may ask. That depends on who you ask. If you ask Warney (Remember him? The coach and more importantly, the SOLE captain of the team that won the IPL last year?), he would say something like this: “I don’t think he has made one good point in a long time, actually. Everything that I have read that he says, he is living in pixieland. It just shows what we players had to put up with. We had to listen to his verbal diarrhoea all the time. He is just a goose and has no idea and lacks common sense.” But Warney has baggage with him from his years under Buck, you say. Fair dinkum, but let’s face it. He does know him better than, say, Ashok Dinda. But let me ask you this. You don’t have four people dab on your make up for you at the same time do you? It would kind of layer it on thick, don’t you think? Restrict your facial muscle movement and make you look like a Kathakali dancer when you want to play debonair Don.
Warney thinks he is a goose in pixieland and I hate to be the one to break it to you, but this goose doesn’t always lay a golden egg. It is more prone to periodically deposit nuggets of dubious material around, material which you end up peering at, and then just get on with the job. Just like people do when they deal with deposits from their dogs on evening walks. You just need to lighten up and take them for what they are. Droppings.
Sometimes the droppings might come masquerading as deep thoughts like this one he dished out last year. Just before India played the Aussies in Australia. Yeah, the RoyBhajan series and the one where Kumble did a Woodfull and Bucknor pulled a blinder. The one where India were within eight minutes and one Pup over of pocketing the series before they cocked it up in Sydney. He said: “I think it mightn’t be a bad thing if the ICC looked at some rule relaxations, which might allow a more even distribution of players around the world. Most young cricketers in Australia grow up wanting to play for Australia, but I’m sure there would be quite a few who, when they get to about 25 or 26 and realize they probably won’t get a chance to wear the baggy green, would still be happy to play international cricket anywhere.”
Whoa, bugger me!! That must have put the immigration authorities on red alert in all the cricket playing countries. He wants instant-Kolpak in Kolkata and Karachi. Is he a nutter or what? I wonder if he has any (he sure as friggin ‘ell does, you can bet on it) suggestions about say, the Olympics too. Like allowing swimmers from Botswana to swap passports and do the 200 metre medley in green and yellow Speedos after a 2 week acclimatization period of shrimp barbies on Bondi beach. See, he appears at a press conference and opens his mouth and you get the nagging suspicion that he sat on a whoopee-cushion. Especially when he squeaks out beauties like: “In other sports around the world, the allegiance is to the contract and not the country. Perhaps that’s the way cricket will head, too. We certainly don’t want world cricket to become like a horse race when the favourite wins all the time. No one will want to watch.” Funny bugger, isn’t he? I wonder what he is saying right now, having seen the dogfights the dripping-with-excess-and-surplus-talent-to-the-extent-of-causing-indigestion-Aussies have been in with the Indians and the Proteas of late.
But he is capable of the occasional moment of clarity too, of the type Jules in Pulp Fiction had in the diner just before Pumpkin and Honey Bunny decided to go ape shit. Like when he admitted that he might have made himself redundant during the 2005 Ashes, the one where the Poms stuck it to the Aussies. We all saw him looking sagely and contemplative like a country music star in that Stetson of his, peering into his laptop screen as Freddie and gang got busy busting up his men. Maybe he was busy working on a draft of his book If Better is Possible, the one that got published later. The one about his coaching techniques helping to build champion teams for business corporations. It was a primer on stretch visions, strong team ethos and success cultures for CEOs. But he did do some navel gazing and was candid about his redundancy. You need to cling to these moments. They don’t happen often.
You need to realize, gurus come in all shapes, sounds and flavors. At least you are not stuck with Guru Greg, with his modus operandi being what Radiohead sang about once: “When I am king, you will be first against the wall”. Think of Buchanan as more of a kindred spirit of Mike Myers in The Love Guru. He is harmless. And he is no lemon by any stretch either. You need to realize that he is just intent on double dipping his spoon into both the paellas of cricket and corporate business. He will deliberately cross his wires and produce sparks accompanied by an acrid smell. He may give the impression of trolling around in a schizoid universe where he has forgotten which world he is in at any particular instant. Like when he warbles out corporate mantras on the cricket field and cricket logic in the boardrooms. I can visualize him in a corporate boardroom using a laser pointer and intoning “Every successful business needs three slips and a gully.” as a bunch of suited CEOs fidget their bums nervously, trying to decide if the bearer of the Powerpoint slides is a prophet or a nutter. He then turns around and freaks out that poor chokra from Chattisgarh, handing him a Wharton School of Business report, instead of badgering him about honing his reverse sweep. But it is a well orchestrated performance. The unconventional wisdom emanating from him is quite conventionally planned. Don’t lose sleep over it. And don’t go after people like Sunny. They do have their cricket shit together.
Speaking of unconventional coaches, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Phil Jackson, the coach of the Chicago Bulls of the NBA was a kooky one, who just happened to lead the Bulls to six NBA titles during his term (and the Los Angeles Lakers to three more). What is so unconventional about that, you may ask. Well, Phil had this habit you know. Of handing out books to his players. Books that he envisioned (in Technicolor, I am sure) would hone their mind, channel their energy and ying their dunking yangs. Bulls’ practices would end with players being given their reading assignments. Picture this: a poker faced Michael Jordan lining up to get his copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Scottie Pippen lugging a tome of poetry by Allen Ginsberg in his gym bag and a perplexed John Paxson walking off with The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living in his armpit. Seriously.
But you see, Guru Phil was just a Deadhead. A Deadhead in an Armani suit. The type who prefers tie-dyed tees and shops at organic farms for the green stuff. He sometimes did come across sounding like he needed to lay off his hookah and concentrate on, say, Horace Grant’s hook shot. But you know something? Guru Phil was an excellent player himself. Was a key player when the New York Knicks won the NBA Championship in 1973. And was a darned good coach too, one of the greatest in NBA history. As he was dishing out fines on overdue books to his players, he was also getting them all lubed up and tuned on his innovative triangle offense to beat the crap out of other teams in the league. Authored a ton of books about basketball – the playing and coaching angles. Above all, the players really liked him. They just shrugged off his attempts at playing existential librarian, poked good-natured fun of him with smart-ass comments, put the unopened books on their bedside tables, paid their overdue library fines, flashed Guru Phil a peace sign, sauntered out onto the court and executed his intricately detailed plans. Each night, the cheerleaders wiggled their behinds and Jordan & Co. handed out a serious ass-whuppin’ to teams cross the league.
Cricket’s own bush ranger Buchberger… err…Buchanan, decided to lay his own brand of unconventional quite thickly on Punter and his gang in the months preceding the 2007 Ashes in Australia. Lay it on like two inches of vegemite on melba toast. Pulled a Lou Gossett Jr. on them and played officer as his gentlemen wards bonded it out in remote Queensland bush country, trying to get them out of their “comfort zone”. Downright pissed Warney off by depriving him of his cheese pizzas and his Cheetos. Warney was to reveal later: “A stun-bomb had gone off, and we were told the area wasn’t safe. We had to move. Now. There were no torches or directions. All we had been given for dinner was half a can of chunky soup”. Half a can of chunky soup? That would be certifiably inhuman, from Warney’s standpoint. And the poor lad had to resort to stealing fags behind trees pretending to take a whizz, as Pup stood guard. Sat them around a fire at night, unrolled a screen, pulled out a projector and Powerpointed them with some Sun-Tzu crap probably. Ask Pigeon about this when you play the Daredevils at the Wanderers. He looks like he’s barely controlling himself and is dying to tell. Ask him Shah Rukh, ask him!
So Khan saab, as you are cooling off from jiggying it up with Rani Mukherjee or Bipasha Basu (that hottie Shilpa Shetty is off limits now to your team, isn’t she?) celebrating a KKR win at the Centurion and look to find Buck, you will probably find him holding audience and dispensing deep-fried goose nuggets wrapped up in Excel spreadsheet printouts. Or if you happen upon him after a KKR loss and he consoles you with a “Main hoon na?” (Another one of Mr. Khan’s screen opuses. Roughly translates to “I am here, ain’t I?” ergo “I’ll take care of business”), dil pe mat le yaar (Sorry, it just means “Don’t take it to heart”). He probably had nothing to do with the loss and you need to find Daddy Cool or Dada and take it out on them. Just like he probably had nothing to do with any of the wins either. C’mon man, gimme a break, it’s T20 for God’s sake. The coach may have a few more things to do than just drive the team bus (as Ian Chappell suggested), but at least don’t allow him to slather corporate mumbo-jumbo of stretch visions, matrix of responsibilities or leveraging synergies on you.
Actually, the elder Chappell is more vocal about not attributing too much to Buchanan’s involvement. Here is what he said of Buck’s contribution to the Aussie teams he coached: “He didn’t make any. His contribution to those victories in my opinion is absolutely nil. Is someone going to tell me that if my daughter had coached Australia, would the results have been any different? I am here to tell you the results wouldn’t have been any different at all. In fact, they might have been better without him there.” So for Pete’s sake, when you see Daddy Cool accompanied by McCullum, walk over to mid-off to join Dada who is having a chat with Mashrafe Mortaza (He is an excellent pick, by the way. Though I am not sure how much of a draw he’ll be for the babu moshai’s in Bloemfontein), don’t get all excited about your Coach Ned Flanders’ new scheme working to perfection. It might just be that Daddio and Macca are enquiring about local foodie joints that serve the best Kalo Macher Jhal. Be cool, unless you too are scouting for some primo Bengali fish curry for your post match blowout. That kid from Bangladesh, Masharafe, knows his shit. He can plan and handle his 2 over spell fine, thank you, without a séance out there.
So Shah Rukh, indulge me brother. Consider this just friendly advice and keep some of these words of wisdom in mind over the next 6 weeks in South Africa: What starts off as a gut feeling can progress and end up in flatulence. A halo or glow behind someone might be just the sunshine blowing out of their posterior. I think you get the drift? You need to man. Or you will oscillate between giggling and being gob-smacked every time you open the papers and read the latest droppings from your bus driver…oops…coach.
Like this nugget from him last year. “If I was an administrator, I would be welcoming someone like Allen Stanford with open arms into the fold,” he said.
Oh yeah? No shit, Sherlock!