Friday 27 April 2007 

Behind Every Great Team There's A Great Coach

Defending champions Australia and their World Cup final opponents Sri Lanka have inspirational coaches to thank for their progress to Saturday's showdown in Barbados.

Australians John Buchanan and Tom Moody, the Sri Lankan coach, have infused fresh ideas to spur their talented teams.

Buchanan, 54, wants to guide his unbeaten Australian side to a unique third title in a row before he ends a highly successful eight years with the world's top-ranked 11.

Australia meet Sri Lanka, the 1996 champions, in a repeat of the final 11 years ago.

Moody, 41, will eye his own treble, the former all-rounder having featured in Australia's World Cup triumphs in 1987 and 1999.

The bespectacled Buchanan, a former university lecturer has superbly teamed up with captains Steve Waugh and then Ricky Ponting to help Australia play an astonishingly successful brand of cricket.

Although his unorthodox method of motivating players has its critics, the team has gone from strength to strength thanks to his management skills.

In 2001, Buchanan drew on the teachings of Chinese warlord Sun Tzu before Australia's victorious Ashes tour of England.

TAUNTED BATSMEN

Early this year, he taunted New Zealand and England batsmen for not testing his bowlers in a home tri-series.

Although England swept the final 2-0 and New Zealand routed an injury-hit Australia 3-0 in a high-scoring series at home, they have bounced back with renewed vigour.

Buchanan's achievements with Australia include a record 16 consecutive test wins and 21 one-day victories in a row.

However, after the 2005 Ashes series defeat in England, former skipper Ian Chappell questioned his credentials.

"If you are calling Buchanan a coach then it's a waste of time because he can't coach cricket," he said.

Leg spinner Shane Warne criticised him for arranging a pre-season boot camp last year, although the team went on to win the ICC Champions Trophy for the first time and then swept the home Ashes series 5-0.

Moody took over Sri Lanka in mid-2005 after a successful stint with England county side Worcestershire and has transformed the struggling outfit.

He backed youngsters such as opener Upul Tharanga and unorthodox fast bowler Lasith Malinga and revived the Sri Lanka career of talented middle order batsman Chamara Silva.

Sri Lanka also played abroad frequently last year which has toughened them up while playing away from home.

Skipper Mahela Jayawardene recently said he wanted Moody to stay on as coach beyond the World Cup.

"We've enjoyed playing under him," he said. "Every day you try and learn something. That is something special Tom has brought to this team."

Many believe he was behind the controversial tactic to rest match-winning bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas for their Super Eights game with Australia after both had booked their places in the last four.

Australia won by seven wickets against Sri Lanka's full batting line-up, but were not amused after being denied the chance of facing the pair they had last played against in February 2006 before the final.

If the move pays off, Moody would be hailed for his ingenuity. Buchanan, always looking for psychological advantages over opponents, would surely nod privately in appreciation.

© Reuters 2007

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