‘I shake my head looking at advertisements for coaching these days. It really is ridiculous’

February 18, 2024

Dav Whatmore talks about seeing cricket evolve in his three decades of coaching, young talent coming through the ranks in the BPL, and more

‘I shake my head looking at advertisements for coaching these days. It really is ridiculous’

In 1996, Dav Whatmore coached Sri Lanka to the World Cup. Then he changed the way Bangladesh played cricket forever in his stint with the side from 2002 to 2007. He coached in Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Nepal and Singapore. Now he is back in Bangladesh as Fortune Barishal’s team director in this season’s BPL. We spoke to Whatmore about coaching and changes in the game in his time in it.

Q: You have come to Bangladesh after many years. Do you have good memories? How is it to come back?

A: When I knew that I was coming, I was looking forward to it, obviously. It didn’t disappoint. There are so many familiar faces - but I forgot most of their names! I am smiling, saying hello, but trying to remember their names. The outpouring of love and affection in this country is overwhelming. It is very humbling.

I am just so happy to be here. I am here for the franchise, as a team director. I have tried to pass on my experience to anyone who is interested.

Q: What have you seen that has impressed you here?

A: I have seen a lot of young players. Before we played our first game against Khulna, I asked what they were like. They are saying a lot of the high-performance boys are there. Bloody hell, they were really impressive. They beat us twice.

I also do understand that the totals have been a little bit low in this [BPL] edition. The surfaces that they are playing on contributed to it, but that’s okay. I may be guilty of looking through rose-coloured glasses, but I see good potential there. There are a number of good local Bangladeshi players, more of them than when I was here [last].

Q: Someone like Mehidy Hasan Miraz?

A: He has already been identified and won games for Bangladesh. I have had the privilege of working with him. He is a very coachable young man. He is open to listening, and that’s great. Him and Shakib [Al Hasan] are two very good batters in the top six, and will bowl a lot of overs. They are world-class players. Not many teams can boast of that.

Q:You have been on a journey for the better part of the last 20 years. You have even worked in Nepal.

A: It was just at the end of Covid. There was no other work and I was keen to do something. I went to Nepal. But then the ICC kept cancelling games. There was a lot of training. A little bit of domestic cricket. It was a bit of a disappointment.

Nepal is one of the few Associate countries where you have to be indigenous to play for the team. You have to be a Nepali. They have a lot of talent. They have more allrounders than most countries. It was pleasantly surprising. It was good to work with them. They work hard. They were competitive in their own level of competition. They are still developing their pool of talent.

Q: What is it like to work around the world?

A: I really enjoy it. Any job you take is a challenge. It differs from one environment and one country to another. I always look forward to testing myself. I love working in this industry. I love working with people.

Q: You left a legacy in Bangladesh, and there has always been a certain positivity about you in other places like Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

A: I don’t necessarily accept these assignments to leave a legacy. I work the way I normally work, to try to build a healthy and happy environment. When you have some success along the way, you are remembered. I am me, whatever “me” is. Others will have an opinion. I am who I am.

Q: You’ve seen cricket evolve. You now have serious cricket in America. You have a competition like the Hundred. How do you view all these changes?

A: I do understand that the future is going to be more of franchise cricket. Test cricket will survive, but only in a handful of countries. I read and see a lot of the big international cricketers saying that they will protect the sanctity of Test cricket, but then they leave the format. They go in search of good money in the leagues.

The lure of T20 cricket is very big. It draws players to finish their cricket with their respective boards prematurely. Some boards are managing their players to ensure that they stay longer. The other negative knock-on effect is that it is reducing the available time for bilaterals in the Future Tours Programme. The ICC tournaments are also taking a chunk of time from the calendar.

This is the fast pace that’s ahead of us. A lot of good things are coming out of it. A lot of people are benefiting, like umpires, scorers and referees. They are earning a good living.

Maybe every four years everyone will be interested in a World Cup or every two years in a T20 [World Cup]. They are also trying really hard to have some sort of context for the five-day game with the World Test Championship. But it is going more and more on the franchise route.

Q: You developed the style of going hard in the first 15 overs with Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana. Mark Greatbatch had done it before you but you reshaped the Sri Lanka batting line-up to be more aggressive. It’s now become the norm across cricket today.

A: It is all reflective of changing to a fast-paced life. Cricket is also part of it. It is attracting a whole new audience that comes to watch at the ground. Television is drifting away. Live streaming is the way to go. Digital platforms are the future. There is unbelievable money in the IPL and the English Premier League.

Q: Do these transitions become harder to manage in a country where emotions often get the better of practicality?

A: I can understand the emotions in this country. It is great to see the passion. I am no different than everybody else. I am emotional as well. Because I am not a Bangladeshi, sometimes I am not as upset when we lose to a particular opponent. When I coached Pakistan, we were playing against India. I knew about the rivalry.

During the Champions Trophy, we lost to them in Birmingham. It pissed everyone off that I wasn’t as emotional in the post-match interview. I am angry at the loss, but I didn’t show it emotionally. They thought I didn’t care. I do care. But sometimes if you are not part of the country, you can be falsely judged as not being emotional.

“When I bumped into older coaches, they told me I changed coaching forever. They said we used to go to the nets wearing black trousers and shoes, white shirt. You came in shorts, took your shirt off. I made sure the cameras weren’t there when I took the shirt off “

Q: What was Dav Whatmore like as a coach 30 years ago, compared to how he is now?

A: I think I was lucky to have blinkers on. I was doing what I was trained to do at the Institute of Sports. I just focused on the job that I was doing. I had the good sense not to come to the Aravindas, Arjunas, Gurusinghas and Mahanamas, who had played a lot of Tests. I’ve played seven [Tests]. I am not going to tell them how to play. I can maybe give a bit of feedback. Having an Australian accent helped - it was something different, even though I was Sri Lankan.

I focused a lot on the youngsters. I organised training. The proper reason to come [and coach] - to get something out of it. It was really good with the support staff. Everything was written down and planned. Years later when I bumped into older coaches, they told me I changed coaching forever. They said we used to go to the nets wearing black trousers and shoes, white shirt. You came in shorts, took your shirt off. You involved yourself with all that. I had no idea it was an effect I had. I was just being me. I made sure the cameras weren’t there when I took the shirt off (laughs).

Q: How would you advise a coach who is starting off?

A: I shake my head looking at advertisements for coaching these days. The list of duties goes on for four pages. It really is ridiculous. You have to be a Rhodes scholar to read these requirements. I am thinking, how can a coach do all that stuff?

I think the modern coach has to be good on the laptop. He has to be organised. But at the end of the day, you are working with humans. People. You have to know technique and tactics. You have to be extremely organised. You have to communicate effectively in team meetings. You have to work with individuals on their personal performance.

Communication is so important. You have to know about nutrition and mental skills. It would help if you played the game, but it is not compulsory. You know about the levels of pressure. End of the day, it is about communication and management skills.

You gotta have the balls to say, ‘No more practice. You are going to rest. We are not training.’ A lot of coaches do all sorts of things to justify their job. Sometimes the best thing to do is to shut up. –Cricinfo

‘I shake my head looking at advertisements for coaching these days. It really is ridiculous’