Manager / Head Coach, National Cricket Academy Richard McInnes with BanglaCricket members Rabiul Islam, Sohel Nadeem Rahman, and Dr Zunaid Kazi in Dhaka, 2012. (File Picture)
Richard McInnes (RM): My official title is National Business Development Manager - Elite Sports, which is a little bit wordy I know. My primary role will be to liaise with elite sporting teams, organizations and individuals across Australia, NZ and Asia to demonstrate to them the value of the SportsMed athlete management system which serves to monitor, predict and protect athletes/players through detailed analysis and reporting. Check out our website at www.sportsmedcorp.com. It is the type of system that the majority of professional sporting organizations around the globe has in place or is seeking to implement to ensure thy get greatest return on investment on their athletes and also increase their chances of best performance on the field, but having more players available for selection at any given point in time.
ZK: Do you think that statistics, biometrics, and analytics have a big role (both predictive and prescriptive) to play in professional sports?
RM: I think statistics / biometrics / analytics play a key role in success in sport purely because human beings are creatures of habit. Players will do similar things in similar situations more often than not and as an opposition if you have studied the player well enough you can put the odds in your favor when it comes to where you bowl or what field you set, or where you might try to hit a certain type of bowler in pressure situations. In terms of biometrics, cricket is primarily an open, skill based sport so pure physical biometrics have less predictive or deterministic value as compared to maybe using it to identify potential 100m sprinters. However, within cricket it could be used for bowlers more than batsmen, and within that pace bowlers more than spinners as a talent identification tool. As an example, there has really only been one successful bowler under 6 feet tall in Test cricket and that was Malcolm Marshall. What helped him succeed was the fact that he was quite fast, was surrounded by other very fast bowlers, swung the ball both ways, and had excellent control and tactical nous. Therefore history will suggest to us that if you are not at least 6ft tall, there is very little chance you will be a successful Test bowler. That is why guys like Taskin and Manik are such exciting prospects, because they have what the successful bowlers have, height and they get bounce off a good length.
ZK: That's kind of a big career change?
RM: It is and it isn't; I have been involved with Athlete Management Software previously in my role with Cricket Australia, so it is not completely foreign to me. Secondly I have been coaching now for 20 years and I am looking at the next stage of my career and life, having just turned 40. Coaching is a fickle industry with so much of your destiny out of your control and at the whim of people and boards who may or may not have a good understanding of the role or influence of a coach. My children are also approaching a key time in their schooling which is very important to us. I was keen to find a role soon, where my kids could settle in to school and not be moved around during high school.
ZK: So are you done with cricket?
RM: I don't think so. There has already been some interest from organizations back in Queensland to be involved, so I am sure I will be doing some coaching in the future. I still really enjoy working with players and watching them develop, so I dare say I will still do some coaching, whether it is personal coaching or doing some work with Queensland Cricket, we shall see, but I don’t think I am done with cricket.
ZK: This was your second stint with Bangladesh. How would you rate your success or lack of it compared to your first stint?
RM: We achieved more in the first stint, but we stared at a lower base too, so by the law of diminishing returns we will improve less as we getter better. In terms of performances or matches won, it was probably similar, but that is not always a good measure of progress as it depends who you play. In terms of the impact I wanted to have and the goals I set for myself in this role, I was very disappointed. I had made a positive impact on a group of players last time and this time I was determined to have more of an impact on the broader cricket pathway and system, to provide a much better support structure to the National team set up. Essentially that was the point I had reached in my first visit here and I wanted to continue that work forward. Unfortunately for various reasons I was not able to have that impact and hence the underpinning systems are still the same and National team performances suffered because of that despite the outstanding efforts of Shane and Corey to try and prepare them well.
ZK: How was it different this time around?
RM: There were a range of factors that probably made it more challenging this time around. The political situation in 2013 in Bangladesh made life difficult for everyone, not just the BCB and cricket, so that certainly did not help. It was difficult to plan anything at any level as every time there was a hartal we could not get to the stadium, so we were trying to coach remotely a lot of the time. I was very lucky to have some of our local coaches who lived nearby or who stayed at the academy who could continue to run the programs during this time and they did a great job. In hindsight it was good for their development too.
Secondly, while the academy is a good facility and has enormous potential to be a world class training center, the numbers of teams who use it mean the quality of wickets and the ability to access facilities when you need them is quite challenging. Unfortunately facilities away from the NCA and the regional stadiums are quite limited and hence domestic teams need to train somewhere, which happens to be the NCA. The times when we were able to only have 1 or 2 squads training there, we were able to do some really effective work, but these times were rare. Previously, when based at BKSP, we had great flexibility and from a skill acquisition perspective we could conduct training sessions that were world class in terms of effectiveness for players, hence I believe they improved faster.
Finally, I think there was much greater interaction and cooperation between Game Development and Cricket Operations departments previously. To clarify, GD looks after everything up to the U19 team and NCA squad, Cricket Operations look after the A and National team. Quite obviously there is significant overlap in players and staff at the U19, NCA and A Team level in terms of players and staffing. Unfortunately the Cricket Operations department wanted nothing to do with the NCA based programs which made life very difficult to provide Shane and his support staff with really effective support for the National team.
ZK: You were intimately involved with the development and pipeline. How is the pipeline? Are there more Mushfiques and Shakibs on the way?
Given the inherent limitations in relation to facilities at grass roots level, our coaching infrastructures, education levels, very stretched talent identification network, I think the pipeline is still ok. It is one of the advantages of having a population of 160M people. You have big numbers to work with. There are some good players coming through, so I am comfortable that the players are there. Player development involves 4 steps, which I have been trying to explain to various people within the BCB.
Talent Identification - this is the easy bit, anyone can spot a player with talent and we have a lot of those.
Talent Development - once players are identified, it is then about getting access to them, working with them, shaping their attitudes and behaviors (this is what I think we did well with the HP program last time) as well as refining their skills.
Talent Management - once you have access to players, you get to know them, understand what challenges they need and how to manage their development so that get the appropriate exposure to situations where they will be really challenged, be moderately challenged or be able to dominate. All of these levels are important, but too much of one or the other will create problems. With the HP program previously, we had Mushfiq, Shakib and Tamim come into that program as 17 year olds, training alongside Mashrafe, Abdur Razzaq etc. For a year where they were the weakest players (so they were really challenged in skills and physically), and then they went back into the U19 program where they were the best players and had to set the standard for others to follow. This same concept should be applied to game exposure as well.
ZK: You had brought up Taskin and Manik earlier as exciting prospect. Who would you consider the 5 to watch out for the future?
RM: This is a tough question, given that I really only spent extensive time with the U19 squad, enough time to understand their attitudes and mindset, which is the key determining factor in international success. Based on that and because you want names, I will give you a few to watch out for. I am hoping that a few others will stand up as well and have successful careers.
Mehedi Hasan Miraj. He is a right arm off spinner and captain. I suggested that Mushfiqur would be a long term National captain when he was 16 and I think this guy is a better captain at the same stage. He also bats well but I also think he will be a very, very good off spinner and captain. He is an excellent manager of players and tactically very good.
Taskin Ahmed. Everyone knows Taskin; everyone is excited because he bowls fast, but relative to the fast bowlers around the world, he is not really that fast. However, what will make him successful is that he gets bounce off a good length, he swings the ball, and he wants to be the best.
Shadman Islam Anik is a left hand batting opener. He not only has as a good temperament for Test cricket but also good technique. He just debuted in the NCL
Ali Ahmed Manik is a tall right arm medium fast, who does not currently play with any teams. He is just 18 and has trained with Taskin for the past 12 months. He has an excellent attitude and is dedicated. At 6' 2”, he gets a good bounce and swing and is developing the rest of his game.
Nazmul Hasan Shanto has a great attitude and work ethic and the ability to handle pressure. He reminds me a lot of Mike Hussey in the way he goes about his game. He has to keep working on some technical issues but has the determination and attitude to overcome this.
There are plenty of others who with appropriate guidance and support could have successful international careers, but in the absence of this support they will not. Players like Mominul is already on the stage and will be a long term player as he has a wonderful attitude and work ethic to go with his skills. Sabbir Rahman Roman has all the skills and just needs guidance. [Mosaddeq Hossain] Saikat is abundantly talented, but will need to expand his game to compete against smart players.
ZK: What would you say are the critical issues that are getting in the way Bangladesh Cricket?
RM: Primarily, board and governance structure that is inefficient primarily through having too many people, making decision making almost impossible. There are some really good people involved, but they are swamped by the sheer volume of numbers. My understanding is the conventional wisdom would suggest a board of 6 to 9 independent and skilled directors is ideal. The BCB has 27!!!
On the back of refining the above structures, I then think we could see an improvement in the short, medium and long term planning of cricket in Bangladesh, which would in turn see improved efficiency and effectiveness in what is delivered and subsequent consistent improvement in on field performance.
ZK: There is always talk about getting the 'right' head-coach for Bangladesh. What should we be looking for in a head-coach and who are the top candidates Bangladesh should be trying to recruit?
RM: The right head coach, will be the one who is actually allowed the freedom to coach and manage the team and players as is required for international cricket. BCB has had a strong of very good coaches come through, but all spend more energy fighting the system and limitations which takes away from what they want to achieve or are able to achieve with the team. This happens in various countries around the world, but probably more so here.
ZK: Suppose you were in charge of Bangladesh Cricket and could make any cricket related decisions, what would be the top 5 (or 10 or) things you would do?
RM: This is what I’d do:
Review the governance structure, including the size of the board of directors.
Develop a strategic and operational plan with key priorities identified
Develop a consistent cricket calendar
Conduct extensive education programs with coaches and administrators to assist in developing the understanding of the requirements to perform successfully at International level
Refine First Class Cricket to ensure it provides optimal preparation for our National team and is also aspirational for young players to play.
ZK: Is there hope for us fans? You've mentioned in the past that most of our players are motivated by external factors and not internal motivation.
There is hope, without hope we have nothing. However what I will say is that if we continue to do the same things, we will get the same results.
ZK: Is there a future in Test cricket for Bangladesh?
I have to repeat what I just said about doing the same thing and getting the same results. Essentially we have to improve faster than all other nations, if we wish to climb the rankings table. Assume all teams and players improve 5% per year, based on their domestic cricket and National training program. We need to improve 10 to 15% and so we need to do all of these things better than other countries, not just copy them.
ZK: I'm sure you have made many memories in your many years in Bangladesh? Would you like to share any with us fans?
RM: So many, hard to pin point anyone in particular. In general though, I just like the people. The players are good to work with; they are so keen to learn. That is a generalization of course, as there are some that don’t want to work, don’t want to learn, but the majority of players and coaches have been excellent. The passion for the game here is something that many would not understand.
ZK: Favorite Bangladeshi food?
RM: Sorry no specific Bangladesh food, but I do love Asian food in general, curries, a lot of Thai food. But I generally don’t like to eat much oil, so that rules out most Bangladeshi food. My favorite restaurants in Dhaka are Japanese actually!! Clean, healthy food.
ZK: Things you enjoyed in Bangladesh?
RM: The passion for cricket and all that goes with that.
ZK: Things you disliked?
The stupidity of drivers in Bangladesh, which creates jams that don’t need to exist at intersections.
The constant desire to find short cuts, which pervades society, which in the end generally makes the goal further away or harder to achieve.
ZK: Inquiring minds want to know - "will third time be a charm"? Any possibility we might see you back in Bangladesh in the future?
RM: Never say never.
ZK: Would you like to share any parting thoughts with the fans on Bangladesh Cricket?
RM: Keep supporting the teams, try to stay objective and gather all the information before passing judgment.