DateLine: 10th December 2006
Refusing to blame coach Greg Chappell for the string of dismal performances of the Indian team, former South African batsman Barry Richards slammed the sport's administrators for failing to devise a long-term policy for the game in the country. "Coaches and players can be sacked. But can this solve the problem? They have the best team out there that is not performing. There is no long-term programme. You should hang the administrators," said 61-year-old Richards, rated as one of the best batsmen of the last century. Richards said Chappell took up the job in India with a clear-cut aim to try and make a difference to the country's standards. "There is nothing wrong in that. If you plan in the long term then only you can make things happen. And therein lies the problem," he told newspersons. "Indian cricket has a good player base, a good fan base, and lot of money. But the problem is they don't plan in the long term."
Richards, who could play only four Tests as his playing career was cut short by South Africa's isolation during the apartheid era, said that he had never seen any state association representative in India having any clue to where they want Indian cricket to go after 10 years. "This is not the situation in Australia. You can go to Queensland, Western Australia or some other states. They will tell you in a clear-cut manner what they want to attain after say five years," said the right-hander, nominated as Wisden's Cricketer of the Year in 1969. However, Richards felt that coaching was an 'over-rated profession'.
"What can the coach do? A strong captain can control the team well". Richards also came down heavily on the game's domestic structure in India, saying no good will be served with the large number of teams. "There are 30 first-class teams. Only some of them are strong. Standards can develop only when the strong fight the strong," he said. Richards reminded scribes that this was not the first time that India had come up with a poor show on the fast and bouncy tracks of South Africa. "Earlier also, when they went to South Africa they performed badly. There was much hue and cry then. But soon after India came out with a 3-0 win against a weak side, everybody forgot the debacle," he said. Richards felt that India should have camped in South Africa for at least a week to get acclimatized to the conditions there. He said the non-performance of Virender Sehwag has put pressure on the middle order, while Irfan Pathan's failure to swing the ball and offie Harbhajan Singh's lacklustre show have also affected India's fortunes.