The Bangladesh Cricket team is like a yo-yo. A vision of forward progress achieved in the 2012-2013 season has been followed up with a winter of discontent, culminating in yet another dismal showing in a global tourney. One held in the team's own backyard!
Although nothing has been decided, the thought of appointing a new head coach is rumored to be on the minds of the BCB leadership.
Multiple key players appear to be stuck in an extended run of poor form. The team is bereft of confidence and has not been playing with any clear tactical plan. There are unconfirmed rumors of deep divisions within the dressing room. All of these issues indicate head coach Shane Jurgensen's inability to manage egos and get the best out of his players.
Perhaps even more damningly, team superstar Shakib's recent controversial interview makes one wonder whether the players even have any pride in wearing the red and green jersey. Clearly, significant improvements are necessary across all disciplines.
None of these challenges are new for Bangladeshi cricket. However, in the past, they were handled/overcome by experienced and professional coaches like Dav Whatmore, the late Eddie Barlow and Jamie Siddons. Hiring a new coach with the right fit is imperative for the BCB. Here is BanglaCricket's primer.
Attributes BCB must look for in a Head Coach
There is a big difference in coaching a team such as South Africa or Australia versus a Bangladesh. In developed Test playing nations, players come into the national fold after years of first class experience: their skills and mental attributes are well-honed. The job of a head coach in this situation is more about organizing the team, getting them to play as a unit and assisting with nuances of tactics or match preparation.
The circumstances in Bangladesh renders the job description more complicated. The role expands considerably.
In Bangladesh, players are fast forwarded to the national team with little first class experience; there have been occasions where the Test match was also the player's first class debut. Add to the mix the very dubious standard of domestic cricket ( very rudimentary compared to other test playing nations).
International cricket hits these youngsters like a brick wall and all of a sudden their undoubtable talent counts for little.
A coach with international playing or coaching experience thus is a must to be able to be a guide to such players.
Technical Expertise (Preferably Batting)
Even the best cricketers who join the team have some basic, fundamental glitches. Almost all coaches in the past have had to work on the ABCDs of cricket. Having a technical expert rather than a general coach is thus preferable. Consider the impact of Jamie Siddons under whom most batsmen became 30+ average batsmen from the inconsistent 20-25. The recent struggles of the bowlers suggest a specialist in this area would not be amiss either.
They say a captain in cricket plays the role of a manager in football. But given Mushfiqur Rahim's lack of comprehension in the art of war and the absence of alternative leaders (there is no Mahela or Fleming or Pup waiting in the wings), the Tigers could do with a coach with an astute cricketing brain: Someone who can direct everything from behind the scenes and help the captain devise tactics, pre develop field placements and play the role of a leader/motivator. In other words, a Dick Cheney for Mushy's Dubbya Bush.
Many coaches in the past have complained about the players' poor work ethic. They are alleged to be not training hard, satisfied easily and perhaps most damningly, accused of not working to develop game in their own time. Players demonstrate a tendency of repeating mistakes and not learning from past. In recent times stories of indiscipline, players ego's have also come to light. Infighting, politics has always been there. Whether a friendly, soft spoken coach can handle our "golden boys" is debatable. This is where a no nonsense authoritative, task master can make a difference. Someone who will not be shy to confront big name players and take action where required. An ability to work with younger players is also an added bonus.
Working as a head coach in Bangladesh is also a daunting proposition for non cricketing reasons. While the team is recognized for being perennial underachievers, locally, administrators are also notorious for getting into conflicts and not supporting the coach's vision. The head coach must be someone who can work with corrupt and inept administrators.
The Job Landscape
Hiring a good international coach was much easier in the early 2000's compared to the present. With the advent of T20 cricket and franchise competitions such as Big Bash or CL20, coaches now prefer short term stints. Franchises offer a much larger paycheck (much more than what an international team can afford) while required commitment for only a month or two. This allows a coach to work for: short periods under less extended pressure, less traveling, more time with family and the ability to do additional activities such as commentary, media punditry, consultant roles, etc. Stephen Fleming, Tom Moody, John Buchanan, John Wright, all of whom would appear to meet the 4 requirements listed above, prefer to work this way.
Relocating and residing in Bangladesh is also very difficult for Western individuals and their families. Perhaps a combination of all these reasons are why Bangladesh failed to identify a suitable candidate after the departure of Stuart Law and Richard Pybus.
Bangladesh is not alone in this struggle to find good coaches. Gary Kirsten quit South Africa citing family reasons. Sri Lanka could not retain Graham Ford despite it being so close to World Cup 2015. Sri Lanka's hunt for a new coach was arduous, having to end up appointing a local coach until former assistant coach Paul Farbrace confirmed availability. ECB and BCCI are both pondering futures of Ashley Giles (editor note: Peter Moores was just announced as the new English head coach) and Duncan Fletcher.
Bangladesh has very little chance to attract top coaches like Trevor Bayliss, Tom Moody, Peter Moores, Andy Flower etc. Its best bet would be to identify second tier candidates. This would be an emerging but capable coach with experience at state/county level-but who is not a big name yet. This could also be a veteran coach who no longer commands the same interest from the "big teams."
The ideal candidate must certainly not be involved in a role in any major franchise competitions like IPL or Big Bash as they might have exorbitant salary demands.
With all these daunting caveats in place, who are some possible candidates? Six capable coaches, who if given the opportunity, can put Bangladesh back on track are going to be discussed.
Dav Whatmore and Jamie Siddons played a pivotal role in the development of Bangladesh's cricket. Both individuals would meet the attributes outlined above. But they might not have the motivation for a second stint. Richard McInnes, considered by many as one of the chief architects of Bangladesh's present cricket team, could have made a good candidate. However the Australian's recent decision to quit his role as High Performance manager indicates his frustration for not being able to get things rolling. It is unlikely BCB would offer him the head coach role and McInnes also might not want to continue in the current bureaucratic environment of the BCB.
Best 6 Candidates
Saurav Ganguly is the Indian player who has arguably received the greatest following, admiration and respect in Bangladesh. দাদা as the coach of Bangladesh is bound to excite fans, players, and inspire youngsters. Recently Ganguly has stated he is open to coaching Bangladesh if offered the opportunity.
Mentorship: Illustrious career in international cricket. He has seen and been through it all, played all over the world against all types of opposition. Played World Cups, county cricket, T20. Batted against the best bowlers, bowled to the best batsmen, and captained some of the best talent in the history of the game. What better person to learn from?
Technical Expertise: Considered one of the best ODI batsmen of all time, Ganguly was known for his mastery and grace with the bat. One can expect him to provide the right guidance to Bangladesh's young and talented batsmen. Even senior players like Tamim, Shakib are bound to listen. While most associate Ganguly with his batting, he might even be able to guide the seamers having taken over 150 wickets in FC cricket and 100 in ODI's.
Leadership: Considered one of India's most successful test captains for successfully forging a winning team out of talented but individualistic and directionless players-who were overawed against stronger opposition and considered poor travelers. Ganguly was also a fierce, brave competitor who could take the fight to anyone. If Tigers can pick such traits from him, they will definitely be a better fighting unit. Expect him to be very vocal about who he wants in the squad, selection in final eleven, match tactics and so on.
Language: Because of the poor command of English many players fail to comprehend what coaches wants. Ganguly should not have any trouble here.
Motivation: Having ended his playing career slightly earlier than his peers, Ganguly might be motivated for another major challenge in his career. It is unlikely BCCI will consider him for a national team role at the moment-even if they consider Dravid. IPL franchises also haven't offered head coach role. A successful stint with Bangladesh could pave the way for bigger things.
Lack of Coaching Experience: A great performer does not necessarily make a great teacher. The closest Ganguly has come to international standard coaching is a mentor / skipper role at Pune Warriors where his team finished last. Rahul Dravid who played a similar role with Rajasthan Royals had much better results. There is thus, no guarantee that Ganguly can attain the same level of success as he did as a player.
Budget: Ganguly is a global brand name. BCB might need to dish out the most money they have ever spent on a coach to acquire his services.
Too Vocal: Ganguly is not an individual to stand down from a fight. He is very vocal, very opinionated and is known to want things his way. Anyone who remembers his conflict with Greg Chappell is familiar with his style. So whether he can work with BCB is another question.
A veteran of 50 test matches, 117 ODIs, a world cup winning trainer with close to twenty years of coaching experience, Geoffrey Marsh is the most experienced and decorated candidate BCB can target. It was under him that Australia started their domination after the doldrums of the Kerry Packer years. Father of current Australian players Shaun and Mitchell, Marsh was also a selector of ACB before taking up a position with Zimbabwe. He was able to mold Mugabe's men into a professional unit. Recently he coached Pune Warriors in IPL, and coached Sri Lanka for a short time before being unfairly axed to make room for Graham Ford. The 55 year old is not exactly a coach in demand and this is Bangladesh's opportunity.
Organizer, Motivator: Marsh's coaching revolves around organizing and uniting the team and getting each spoke of the wheel performing. He is known to be a great man manager with the ability to motivate an individual and get the best out of him. Dav Whatmore and Eddie Barlow played a similar role. The Australian will play a father figure role giving the players more self belief and confidence. One can expect Bangladesh to be a more professional, organized and motivated unit under Marsh.
Wide and Varied Experience: Marsh has won a world cup with a top team (Not considered the most talented at that time), worked with a bottom ranked team like Zimbabwe, worked in sub continent (With Pune Warriors & Sri Lanka) and even worked with Under 19 level players in Australia. He is probably the most experienced and well rounded coach that BCB can target. Marsh can also provide long term strategic guideline to BCB if they are willing to listen
Motivatio: Geoff Marsh was controversially sacked by Sri Lanka Cricket after only a few months as the head coach. This was not due to performance, rather they wanted to appoint Graham Ford who was always their primary target. Thus convincing Marsh the same chicanery would not transpire with the BCB might be a challenge.
Lack of Technical Expertise: Geoff Marsh is more of a generalist coach-a man manager, and an organizer. He will definitely require specialized coaches under his wing considering Bangladesh's technical frailties with batting, bowling and fielding.
Langer is one of the top emerging coaches in Australia. In addition to serving as batting coach of Australia for three years, Langer is currently head coach of Western Australia and Perth Scorchers. Under Langer, the Western Australia team has gradually improved in Sheffield Shield, and won the most recent Big Bash.
Batting Expertise: In very much same way Jamie Siddons improved the teams batting, Justin Langer will be able to once again build the team around it. Langer coached Australia at a period where their batters have been struggling. Many including former captain Ricky Ponting have praised Langer for his nitty gritty, detail oriented, technical coaching. He is known to work on players mindset and mental side which he considers as important as the technical side. Batsmen like Tamim and Shakib have all the shots in the book. What lets them down is lack of concentration, composure and the inability to plan or pace an innings. This problem which has ruined players like Ashraful, Aftab Ahmed and so many young talents needs specialized attention which a general coach might not be able to solve.
Work Ethic: As a player, Langer was gutsy, fiercely determined and always about hard work. It is with these characteristics that he has turned around an underperforming and troubled Western Australia side in a short period of time. He has instantly changed the work ethics and attitude in that camp. In many ways this is what Bangladesh needs. Talent is there, but it must be backed by hard work, something many youngsters and seniors may not be committed to.
Motivation: Langer aspired to be head coach of Australia, but was turned down on two occasions. First time he lost out to Mickey Arthur and the next time the job was given to Darren Lehmann, who is more of a motivational/organizational coach. The success he is attaining at Western Australia might still make him a candidate for the main role if opportunity arises in future. So would he be interested to give all of that up for a 50-50 job in Bangladesh?
The longest serving coach in County Cricket, Mick Newell was linked to the Bangladesh job in the past. Recently he was one of the candidates shortlisted for the England head coach job which was vacated by Andy Flower. Newell is a highly regarded coach in England having won the county championship twice and the limited over competition once.
Solid Coaching Experience/Developmental Approach: If coaching and developmental experience is BCB's prime criteria then Newell is a good candidate. Although Newell has played more than 100 first class matches, he is more likely to be remembered as a professional coach and administrator than as a player. His experience with Nottinghamshire has seen him start as a player/coach of the teams second XI in 1992, and head coach from 2002. In this period, Newell has worked on a wide array of the county's affairs beyond first team coaching. Nottinghampshire has produced some of Englands most recent exciting players including Hales, Lumb, Stuart Broad.
Newell could play a wider developmental role than as merely a head coach in Bangladesh. He could perhaps even work closely with the academy and age group teams. This could be good for Bangladeshi cricket, as it often appears that all their different projects are operating in silos.
Motivation: Newell has declined the Bangladesh coach role in the past citing family reasons. But he did not rule it out permanently, saying he would consider in future. The Englishman has given his all at county level and wants an international opportunity. ECB's snub might open doors for Bangladesh to make their move.
Lack Of International Experience: It is being reported that one of the main reasons why Newell did not make it for the top English job is due to his lack of international experience. Same issue could arise with the Bangladeshi job which will have no end of culture shocks. The closest Newell has come to international arena is his work with English Lions.
Veteran coach Ray Jennings has worked with two provincial sides before coaching South Africa A, and then the national team for a short while. Since 2008, Jennings has been head coach of IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore and the South Africa Under 19 team which won its first Under 19 championship under him. He is the first coach to lead any Protea team to silverware!
Ability To Work With Youngsters: Despite boasting a lot of senior coaching experience, Cricket South Africa have maintained Ray Jennings as a key figure in their age group development. This is because Jennings is more of a teacher than a coach, helping cricketers grow as sportsmen and as individuals. CSA believes Jennings, who is a disciplinarian and a fitness fanatic is the best person to fix and prepare cricketers while they are still young and before they enter more competitive cricket. Have Jennings thus could be beneficial, given many in the Bangladeshi team are in their early 20s.
Task Master: As a coach, Ray Jennings is as tough as they get. A self confessed hard man, Jennings is known for adopting "a good kick up the backside approach". When appointed head coach of South Africa he famously said "if the players expect soft drinks, I will make sure there are none. They will go to a tap and get on their knees and drink water until they realize that it is an honor to play for South Africa."
There is nothing in life more frustrating than seeing the talented Bangladeshi players repeat the same elementary mistakes game after game-as if they don't learn and want to learn. Perhaps the South Africa's abrasive, authoritarian style is necessary-like the head master in the village school waiting to have a crack with his cane.
Availability: Despite winning the Under 19 World Cup, Ray Jennings might be out of a job soon due to proposed restructuring at CSA. BCB has an opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.
IPL: The South African's association with Royal Challengers, might be an impediment to a national team coaching role. But if BCB is willing to be flexible, and there are no tours which conflict with IPL, then this is a possibility.
Heath Streak/Grant Flower
Zimbabwe seems to have a knack of producing quality coaches. India is coached by veteran Duncan Fletcher. Credit to England's re-emergence in world cricked must be given to Andy Flower. Dave Houghton currently coaches Somerset in England. The late Kevin Curran, Andy Waller, etc are all highly capable coaches. Former star players Heath Streak and Grant Flower are likely to join this growing list. Despite the good work done by them, both have been unfortunate victims of Zimbabwe's highly controversial cricket board. But Zimbabwe's loss can be someone else's gain!.
Technical Expertise: Based on recent performance, it is pretty obvious Zimbabwe have a better pace bowling attack compared to Bangladesh-featuring Vitori, Chatara, Mpofu, Meth, Shingirai Masakadza and the recently retired Kyle Jarvis. Many of these bowlers have been groomed by Heath Streak. Grant Flower has also been working as a batting coach for a while. In fact last year, the younger Flower was linked with a move to Pakistan as a batting coach. Flower is also knowledgeable about spin bowling.
Bangladesh will particularly benefit from Heath Streak, who has already proven his ability to mold raw talent. To date, pace bowling remains Bangladesh's biggest Achilles heel.
Professionalism/Work Ethic: Both Streak and Flower are known for their professionalism, work ethic. They have considerable enthusiasm and passion about cricket and this was reflected in how they played, and how they are now imparting knowledge to the next generation. Both have captained the team, Streak in particular was considered a lion hearted leader and performer .
Motivation: Both Streak and Flower individually have the ability to be head coach of Zimbabwe. In fact they deserved to be considered. But Zimbabwe Cricket Board has a strange way of dealing with players, and both have been overlooked. Neither have received lucrative offers from abroad either. In many ways, the duo are like hidden diamonds waiting to be discovered.
Lack of experience: Individually neither Streak or Flower might have the required experience for the Bangladesh role. But as a unit they might be able to take the country's cricket forward-like they have done for Zimbabwe. But can Bangladesh lure both of them together?
Even if not considered for a head coach role, either one of them would make a great specialist coach. Bangladesh would certainly be lucky to have one of their services. Who knows one of them might be the next Andy Flower.
The Road Ahead
A great head coach can cut the quality gap between a top team and a lower one. Sri Lanka does not have the infrastructure of Australia or England. It does not have the money of India. It does not have the talent base of Pakistan or South Africa. But it continues to fly high because of the high quality of coaching they provide their national team, academy and age group teams.
This is not something BCB can be stingy about or be willing to compromise. One individual can change our fate-how we perform on the field, how we develop the next generation, how we are looked upon in the cricketing world. Players will certainly do their jobs if BCB does theirs.