BECAUSE BETTER IS POSSIBLE
John Buchanan was not a household name in India even when as a coach he co-led the formidable Australian team to incredible successes in both Tests and ODIs, including two World Cup victories thereby creating a remorseless grip on their numero uno ranking in international cricket. But all that changed one sultry summer afternoon when he dared to dethrone the Prince of Kolkota in his own territorial domain.
Buchanan espoused a rather queer theory; four captains in the Kolkota Knight Riders team for the second IPL edition. All hell broke loose, as TV channels captured a visibly annoyed Sourav Ganguly smothering his exasperation behind exaggerated yawns and long sighs. There was a sense of déjà vu interspersed around that preposterous experiment; just a few years ago, an Aussie coach by the name of Greg Chappell had become a national object of unending debate fluctuating between the sublime and the sub-prime for axing Ganguly for some highly questionable reasons.
Buchanan had done the hitherto unthinkable though, he had actually eclipsed the disgraced Chappell in terms of adorning the dubious mantle of being a capricious coach with both his feet on a banana peel. Clearly, Buchanan made a huge tactical slip by a rather over-dramatized disclosure on his leadership model. It boomeranged.
The tall brooding Buchanan - who I saw in South Africa during World Cup 2003 - is remarkably poker-faced, and I guess that is what makes him a rather intriguing figure. But to give the controversial (ask Shane Warne) man his due, he is less obfuscated and nebulous when it comes to reading his pocket diary, because that is exactly what The Future of Cricket is intrinsically all about; it captures well-preserved observations, notes and incidents, the travails, trials and tribulations, the bizarre and the boisterous that Buchanan experienced during his first sojourn as coach of the much-hyped KKR.
While Buchanan airs his opinions on everything from ICL ("it is of no benefit to anyone, anymore") to SRK ("a night-owl workaholic") to Harbhajan Singh ("a skilled boxer"), I thought his real million-dollar gem was just a pure statistical expression; "every ball in IPL represents around one per cent of an innings". Or his near-perfect analysis on the malaise affecting cricket administration all over - "part-time people (selectors and board officials) deciding the fate of full-time careers".
The most engrossing chapter of his perfect in-transit-readable book is obviously reserved for Ganguly. The latter, according to Buchanan, is clearly the most unfathomable fellow he has ever encountered, a mystery wrapped in an enigma rolled into a puzzle. Buchanan's assessment explains why Dada was such a hard nut to crack for practically all his Oz adversaries. It makes for an entertaining dissertation that may have even Ganguly chuckling. Buchanan also is remarkably generous towards Shane Warne, despite the blond man's endless verbiage directed towards him. And Buchanan shows shining honesty in stating upfront that the players, all of them, are willing to sell their souls for hard dollars.
Two things of great coincidence have happened since the book was obviously written. India has met an inglorious end to it's much-hyped T20 World Cup campaign in London, and Buchanan has been expectedly shown the door with the KKR bottoming out at the ignominious last position in the IPL. For both India and Buchanan, better is still possible.
The Future of Cricket makes for a breezy read and light fun, punctuated with first-hand experiences and exchanges, providing insight into issues through the incisive eyes of a perceptive man. But the truth is the future of cricket is not T20, it is uncertainty.