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Multi-tasking is nothing new to Shaun as he primarily came to Bangladesh to be the game development manager but later played a key role as coach of both the under-19 team and then the "A "team. Following Dave Whatmore's resignation, Shaun took on the tough task of coach for the national team amidst one of the toughest series for the Tigers. In between the busy schedule in Sri Lanka, he spoke to me and shared his thoughts about the team.

Conversation with Shaun Williams

Published: 21st July, 2007

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Multi-tasking is nothing new to Shaun as he primarily came to Bangladesh to be the game development manager but later played a key role as coach of both the under-19 team and then the "A "team. Following Dave Whatmore's resignation, Shaun took on the tough task of coach for the national team amidst one of the toughest series for the Tigers. In between the busy schedule in Sri Lanka, he spoke to me and shared his thoughts about the team.

BanglaCricket: How has the Sri Lanka trip been so far? Have you been here before?
Coach Williams watxhes his charges in the third Test versus Sril Lanka at Kandy, July 2007..

Coach Williams watches his charges in the third Test versus Sril Lanka at Kandy, July 2007..

Shaun Williams: Yes, I have been here on a couple of occasions before when the U-19 and A- team have toured here. I first came here in February/March 2006 predominantly as an observer when Alistair de Winter was in charge of the U/19 team for the last Youth World Cup and Nazmul Abedin Fahim was his assistant. In my role as the National Manager of Game Development I came along to the Youth World Cup because many of the players would be coming through into the Academy and “A” teams after that and it was good to get an understanding of where these boys were placed in terms of their development. Mushfiq, Sakib and Mehrab were in that group and it’s fair to say that all of them have continued to progress well since then.

I also came to Sri Lanka as the “A” team coach during the recently completed “A” team series in March 2007.

As you can see it is a very short timeframe for some of the U-19 group to now be playing in the National team against the best players that world cricket has to offer. So the boys have been on a very steep learning curve and in my opinion they are coping well all things considered. I just hope that people can see things in a realistic manner and perhaps temper their sometimes unrealistic expectations.

BC: So how has this particular series been an educational experience?

SW: I think above all this series has provided us with an understanding and a reality check of where we are placed in relation to the top teams in terms of Test match cricket. Of course, Sri Lanka is most certainly one of the top teams and they are always very difficult at home, but I suppose we must understand that we have a lot of work to do in order to catch up with the very best teams in the world – especially in Test match cricket.

In fact Sri Lanka has very strong teams at all levels.

For example, as I mentioned previously, I was here a couple of months back with the “A” team and that tour also demonstrated the amount of work that needs to be done for us to get closer in the longer version matches especially. There is a lot to learn from Sri Lanka, e.g. their system and their structured schools development program and the methodical and systematic approach they have in building top quality teams.

BC: So would you say the Sri Lanka model is a good one to emulate?

SW: Yes definitely, but there are also a number of other good structures and systems in world cricket (e.g. Australia) and I believe that we can learn a lot from all the Test playing nations. It’s then a matter of ensuring that we do what is right and fits best for Bangladesh cricket because I feel that we need to make our own system work in a way that suits this country best. I believe that we are starting to see a good system take shape in Bangladesh which in due course will be modified and refined as we will always continue to learn which is the best way to go forward.

The main factor is hard-work and time. We simply need to give the players coming up from the age groups enough time and place realistic expectations on them. As an example, a player like Sakib still needs more time to work on some technical aspects of his game and so we need to be careful not to place unrealistic expectations on players like him. Of course we still want him to perform consistently well but we must also be aware that his best years are still to come as long as he keeps working hard, learning and improving all the time.

BC: Coming back to this test series, how great a factor was Murali’s feat in the big losses that Bangladesh faced?

SW: Murali is always a big factor, isn’t he ? We are talking about a player who is a handful of wickets away from becoming the greatest wicket taking bowler of all time. Simply put, every team in the world has faced similar difficulty in tackling him. So we are not alone there. He is the ultimate professional in the way he plays his cricket. His ability to continually put the batsmen under pressure and create uncertainty is second to none. Clearly he is most effective in breaking partnerships and once a partnership breaks he puts even more pressure on the new batters coming in. But still I would say that we had a couple of decent partnerships where our boys handled him well and that is encouraging.

BC: Can you tell us about the ODI line up? Is Shariar Nafees playing?

SW: Shahriar Nafees is still here. The team management requested to keep him here and it was agreed by the selection panel that we could do so. The players joining the squad are Aftab, Riyad, Farhad Reza and Tamim.

At this stage the selection panel has not confirmed the final team for the first ODI. There is a practice session on 17th and then a practice match on 18th, practice again on 19th and then the first match will be on 20th, so we still have time.

The ODI series will certainly be tough also, after all we are playing against the recent World Cup finalists in their own back yard, but we are confident that we will produce some good performances during this series.

Quite clearly we have made some good progress as an ODI team in recent times and as we know some of the performances at the World Cup were excellent.

BC: What about in Test match cricket, how do you think we are going there in comparison to other teams when they first started out?

In relation to Test match cricket it is perhaps unrealistic to compare how the current established teams had fared in their early days. I believe that this is perhaps a somewhat unfair comparison

Let’s take for example New Zealand when they first started out, ODI’s didn’t really exist back then and maybe this allowed them to concentrate more on a longer version style of play and in-turn focus all their resources into building and refining their Test match team. My point is that now it is an entirely different landscape. Bangladesh has to put resources and effort into both Test match cricket and ODI cricket and now even a 20/20 team is also required. Clearly these all require different approaches, different skills and different mind sets, so arguably we are facing a more difficult task than what some of the other teams had faced during their initial stages in Test match cricket.

BC: Back to the One- Day team, can you tell us about Riyad?

SW: Riyad is a right arm off-spin bowler and a middle order batsman who likes to play an aggressive style of cricket. He is also a very good fielder. As we all know we have many left arm orthodox spin bowlers in Bangladesh so bringing in a right arm off-spinner will hopefully add a new dimension to the team. So far we are happy with his progress but he will need some time to settle in so we shouldn’t expect too much too soon. We are also hoping that he will also prove to be an equally valuable middle order batsman.

BC: How is Ashraful coping with the captaincy?

SW: He is going very well despite not getting the results we might have hoped for in the Test match series. Ash most definitely has the right attitude and ideas about this team and cricket in general. I am sure that captaincy will bring out the best in him and I feel the added responsibility will be very good for him. He has been setting a fine example throughout and he has been working really hard at training so that is always a very positive sign.

BC: Should Ash be moved up the order as was stated by Mahela?

SW: Mahela can say whatever he wants about our team because he is certainly entitled to his opinion, but at the end of the day we will make our own decisions and continue to do what we feel is best for our team. Ash will play somewhere in the middle order where we feel he can perform well both as a batsman and a captain. I’ve been hearing the same things about Mushfiq also – “send him up the order” - but I think we need to be careful with that. Mushy is a very talented player who maybe needs some time to establish himself in the team and in Test match cricket in general. As a wicket keeper/batter we feel that maybe 6 or 7 is the right place for him at the moment in Test match cricket, having said that maybe we can look to use Mushy in various positions in One Day cricket depending on the situations.

BC: What are your ideas about how we can improve on our “A” team and U-19 team coaching?

SW: During the past 2 and a half years we have all been working really hard to set up what we believe is a good system and solid structures within Game Development across the country. This has taken a lot of time and energy and we will need to continue to refine the systems and structures that are taking shape. To be successful we will need to make sure that our domestic competition formats are highly organized and highly competitive. I feel that all the competing teams will definitely need more involvement and input from our trained coaches and administrative staff to make sure that the players can continue to benefit from the structures and competitions that are being put in place.

It’s a never ending process of assessment and refinement and there are certainly no short cuts.

BC: Looking at the whole picture, what should be our realistic goals for the next 2-3 years?

SW: Well hopefully we will continue to see some good progress in our One day team. For a number of reasons, this is probably the area where Bangladesh cricket will most likely progress more quickly at the moment.

As for the Test matches, I believe that first of all we should aim to be a team that is very hard to beat, especially at home. Our results to date perhaps indicate that this has not been the case on most occasions up until now. Once this begins to happen on a regular basis we can then obviously start to think more realistically about winning Test matches consistently. Certainly, we are always thinking of how we can win Test matches, but I feel in order to do that you have to be able to stretch the opposition in every match and be “in” games for as long as possible. To start with, we must break things down and try to win as many sessions as we possibly can. As we know, a Test match will consist of a maximum 15 x 2 hour sessions, so we have to start with the aim of winning as many of these sessions as we possibly can.

BC: I understand that you have visited our site and read comments that are posted. What would you like to say to our Banglacricket fans?

SW: I do read many of the comments that are posted in the website from time to time and I find it enjoyable and interesting to get this perspective. I sometimes worry that the fans can have a little bit too high of an expectation and this is sometimes a little removed from the realities of where we are placed with our cricket. No doubt we all want Bangladesh to do well but we must be aware of where the team and the players are in terms of their development and careers. We must also remember that all the other teams are doing their best to win also, so it’s never going to be easy that’s for sure!

But of course we love the challenge of competing at the highest level and we will continue to do our best in everything that we do. We do need as much support as possible and we are hopeful that if everybody continues to work really hard then the results will start to go our way more consistently and more often than not.

BC: Thank you Shaun. And good luck from Banglacricket!

It’s a pleasure to chat with you.

 

About the author(s): G. M. Bashar is a BanglaCricket supermoderator who is known as "oracle". He is a prolific contributor to our collection of fine articles. In addition to his obvious interest in cricket, he also has a keen desire to be our own version of David Frost - exemplified by the large number of interviews he has taken of key Bangladesh cricket personalities.

 

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