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A Pakistan coaching dilemma

Pakistan cricket team management at present, consists of six coaches – Misbah-ul-Haq (head), Shahid Aslam (assistant),Younis Khan (batting), Waqar Younis (bowling), Mushtaq Ahmed (spin bowling), Abdul Majeed (fielding) – that usually accompany the national team, both at home and overseas.

In the present system domestic cricket PCB has also appointed coaches of the six regional teams – Faisal Iqbal (Balochistan), Shahid Anwar (Central Punjab), Abdul Razzaq (KPK), Mohammad Wasim (Northern), Basit Ali (Sindh) and Abdul Rehman (Southern Punjab) - are also part of the selection committee and were in constant liaison with Misbah-ul-Haq, the national head coach.Now Mohammad Wasim has taken over as chief selector and Northern will need to find his replacement for the next winter.

In a highly professional and demanding international cricket played across three formats – Test, ODI and T20 – the merits and demerits of coaching, the profiles of the individuals appointed to coach and the coaching infrastructure in Pakistan, continue to stir debate in cricketing circles of the country. Shahid Mahboob – a former paceman and competent lower order batsman, represented Pakistan in the 1983 World Cup and Test cricket - is a UK-qualified coach, who recently shared his views on the subject, in his typically forthright manner.

‘Quite recently Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), appointed Nadeem Khan, as Director of High Performance Centre (HPC) and New Zealand’s Grant Bradburn, in the middle of his three-year contract as Pakistan’s fielding coach, signed in September 2018, is now head of HPC at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), Lahore. When I applied for a coaching position at HPC, I was informed that my CV was very impressive but it was not forwarded by the concerned people and hence I was not even short-listed for an interview. I was surprised to hear in my communication with a high ranking PCB employee that HPC has recently appointed 74 coaches for different assignments, are all in ‘learning process’. It makes me wonder then that most of them are not above Level II coaches?’

‘In my 23 years of coaching experience in UK and Qatar, I have yet to come across someone getting into HPC without required professional qualifications. And if the coaches hired by the PCB are still in ‘learning process’, they are only capable of coaching up to club level cricket and not qualified or experienced to work with the elite or the upcoming talent. Sadly this is the way in Pakistan and I ask, where is the transparency they are all talking about? I have written to PCB Chairman, CEO and Director HPC and asked all three to highlight my shortcomings on basis of which I was not short-listed and to this day I am still waiting for a reply.’

‘Most of the coaches in Pakistan and some in HPC were tutored and assed by myself, when they were attending their courses in England. I was also informed that PCB would be advertising few new positions and that I should apply for them. My question is if I am not selected amongst the 74 coaches, what are my chances if I apply again? I have always made it clear that I didn’t put forward my name to coach the Pakistan team, as my goal was to work in HPC or in one of the regional academies.’

‘Although it is worth mentioning that the top coaching posts have been a case of attending hurriedly-arranged Level I and Level II courses in Pakistan and then fast tracked, to justify their role. One of Pakistan’s leading names has recently made a comeback in the management team, after being tried and tested in three previous tenures. This is surely a case of favouritism where a certain individual is allowed to return whenever he fancy doing so.’

‘I also wanted to know, what the criteria was for the selection and appointment of the coaches. I was informed by PCB that because I am over age, I was not considered. As the coaches do not need to be superbly fit, the age limit of 60 is surprising. I am 58 and still fitter than most coaches which can be verified in on-line database and still have another two years in me, according to new rules set by PCB but was still not given the chance. On the other hand, a very good friend of mine, few months younger than me, has been appointed as a specialist coach in HPC, without an interview or the job being advertised.’

‘By the way Australia’s Steve Rixon was 65 when he worked alongside Mickey Arthur as a fielding coach. Most observers will agree that NCA in Lahore, has not done as much as it had potential to, in its 20-year existence. In the absence of fully functioning regional academies, with the exception of Islamabad and Multan, there are simply not enough players coming through the system for Pakistan, to have a strong group of bench players. People talk of cricket talent in abundance in Pakistan but unless it is polished and nurtured properly, the end product will not be impressive. The quality of a coach is measured when after recognizing a talent, he or she is able to polish it to reach its full potential.’

‘My coaching experience in England and more recently as National Coach and Director of Development with Qatar, shows my ability of coaching and developing cricketers by their performance. It has provided me with enough knowhow to seek new avenues. Success breeds success and success becomes a habit, which I instilled in the group of players I was working in Doha. I have always believed that a team in not a group of people who work together but a group of people who trust each other. A quality coach will command respect of his players. A coach never say ‘ I’ but ‘We’ for he believes cricket to be a team game and that only a team effort contributes to a win.’

‘Trust and communication are the keys in a coaching environment and the players should treat their coach as their best friend and the coach in return need to be open and accessible to them. There should not be a fear factor in the coaching environment and the coaches should guide and help through a friendly approach, in an uplifting atmosphere. Personal grudges and professional jealousies seem to have ruined coaching structure in Pakistan. I can name a number of former international players who are too rigid and self-centred to stand any chance of delivering as a coach. It saddens me to share this information but it is a reality.’

‘In a developing country like Pakistan, ‘Me’ and ‘I’ remain very important and often all major decisions at the highest level of the game reflect the power, authority and likes and dislikes of a group of individuals. A coaching role at the highest level need to be about confidence-building and more concerned about reading the game situation, handling pressure, positive planning, mental toughness and how to adapt your game at the top level during different game situations and scenarios. I have put forward my name for different coaching jobs in Pakistan since Shahryar Khan’s tenure as PCB Chairman, but to no avail. The respect that I have earned all around the world is because of Pakistan and now I feel, it is my obligation and duty of being a Pakistani to give something back to my country.’

‘Whilst playing as a professional in England, I became the first Asian to achieve the distinction of becoming a Level III coach, and followed it up with becoming a tutor and assessor of Level I and Level II coach. I was also assessing to recommend people to go on Level III courses. I myself pursed on this path as I love coaching and it was my ambition to become a professional coach whilst I was still playing as a professional. The present Director of HPC, Nadeem Khan and a number of appointed coaches, played under my captaincy at domestic cricket and are fully aware of my approach to both playing and coaching.’

‘My record, experience, qualifications, hard work and leadership in domestic cricket, provide ample proof of my work ethics, both on and off the field. I strongly believe that the coach is because of the players and not the other way around. You need to know the background and ins-and-outs of the players before you can coach them. The only way you can know them is to gain their trust so they are open to you. A coach needs to understand the mentality and the hardships they face to come and participate in cricket in Pakistan.’

© Cricket World 2021