JOHANNESBURG – Unless you’re Arsene Wenger, the job of coach, or manager in football, is a volatile occupation.
In football terms it’s all about winning trophies and in the case of a league, points to stay in the top division where the money is.
If owners don’t feel they are getting those, or they feel the club/team is in danger of missing out, it’s the coach that walks the plank.
Cricket’s a little different, especially domestically - for now at least. In South Africa, domestic coaches have a responsibility to balance success in terms of winning trophies with developing players ready to play at international level.
It can be a difficult balance to strike because while you may be successful in terms of winning trophies, the attention that brings results in players being called up to the national team.
One could argue that the Titans this season struck that balance excellently, albeit with great difficulty.
Lengthy national call-ups for Aiden Markram and Lungi Ngidi were unexpected, as were shorter ones for Junior Dala and even Heinrich Klaasen, for instance.
Call-ups like that can upset planning and rhythm and when the national team releases players at the last minute to play for the franchise, it can cause more consternation.
The Titans are fortunate in that they had an experienced core group of players; Farhaan Behardien being the outstanding player of that group, along with Malusi Siboto, Heino Kuhn, Shaun von Berg and Henry Davids.
Head coach Mark Boucher leaned heavily on that quintet and they provided sufficient stability that by season’s end, the Titans put two trophies in the cabinet.
Sadly for Geoffrey Toyana at the Highveld Lions that wasn’t the case. The Lions weren’t as upset by national call-ups this season as the Titans were, but a loss of form, particularly for most of the batting unit, led to that franchise’s experienced group not playing together sufficiently to build any sort of cohesion.
As a result, the Lions weren’t really a factor in any of the domestic competitions and Toyana was dumped at the end of the season.
He quite rightly felt he had some credit in his coaching account and deserved extra time to turn fortunes around given the success he had brought to the Lions, not just in terms of trophies but also helping to develop players for the national side. That didn’t happen.
The whole affair wasn’t handled very well at all by Gauteng Cricket, highlighted by Toyana’s absence at the franchise’s recent end-of-season awards.
Given that he is still employed by the franchise as High Performance Coach (a position with as yet undefined parameters), bridges will have to be rebuilt between him and administrators.
It is an illustration of the varying degrees in which domestic cricket coaches are measured, and that while they may not face the scrutiny of their footballing counterparts, there is a degree of volatility that makes their positions no less easier.