Saturday, June 09, 2007

Look ma, no coach

Take Monty Panesar’s performance of yesterday away and there isn’t much to talk about in cricket. Virender Sehwag makes another quick start and throws his wicket away in that most-watched tournament in the history of the game, the Afro-Asian Cup. And Saurav Ganguly is busy proving that one-dayers can be played the test-match way (as I write this post, he has made 13 runs of 31 balls; in contrast, Sehwag made 52 of 38, Sanath Jayasuriya made 11 of 16 and Mahender Singh Dhoni has made 13 of 13). Ho-hum.

So a pick from a different sport.

The seventh-seeded Ana Ivanovic from Serbia faces top seed Justin Henin from Belgium in the French Open women’s tennis finals today. For Ivanovic, it has been a great run, what with a win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals and an upset victory over favorite and second seed Maria Sharapova in the semis. Of course, beating Henin in the final will be quite a challenge. More so, because Ivanovic will get no advice from her coach, Sven Groenefeld.

Now why would that be? Well, the reasons are purely commercial. Ivanovic and Henin are both contracted to Adidas. So is Groenefeld. And part of Groenefeld’s deal is that he cannot coach one of the company’s players against another. I’ve heard of non-compete clauses in employment scenarios, but this certainly is taking it to a new level.

You would think companies sign up players and coaches because they want them to perform well. I wonder how sports bodies let these companies get away with these clauses. The next thing you know, they may bar their contracted players from playing against each other. And considering how commercial interests have ruled cricket, is there a similar contractual bind that exists in cricket? Such stipulations may just make it easy for India to select their national coach.

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